Kicking off the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub Showcase event last week, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called for a “big bold vision” for infrastructure and transportation.
“I believe that the time has come for America to say we need to be number one again, we need to fix up our bridges that are falling down, we need to fix up our roadways and we need to raise the gas tax 10 cents per gallon,” said LaHood.
Pointing out that the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, when half of the increase went to deficit reduction, LaHood also called for indexing the tax to inflation. “If they had indexed the gas tax to inflation, we wouldn’t be having this debate today about how we are going to pay for all the things we need.”
LaHood made his remarks in his keynote address, “The Future of Transportation and Infrastructure,” in the Thursday, September 26 session of the CSHub Showcase. The showcase opened open Wednesday, September 25 with a reception and poster session.
The theme of the 2013 showcase was “Building for LIFE: Life-cycle thinking, Innovation, Fiscal responsibility, and Environmental leadership.” More than 120 representatives of the cement and concrete industries attended the event.
Following LaHood’s address, Hub researchers focused on their work to address two key issues for infrastructure investment: Cost and environmental impact of our nation’s system of streets and highways.
The U.S. transportation sector burns more than 174 billion gallons of fuel each year, making up 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, both state and federal governments are struggling to find ways to fund adequate infrastructure investment in today’s economic climate.
MIT researchers found that a key environmental impact is how pavement properties affect the fuel economy of cars and trucks. Roadway roughness and stiffness affect fuel consumption. If the pavement deflects or bends slightly under traffic loads, cars and trucks are running in a slight depression that increases fuel consumption. Stiffer pavements produce less rolling resistance and better fuel economy.
To address infrastructure funding issues, MIT researchers have developed data to help determine the real cost of pavement during its useful life. Life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is a tool used to assess the total cost throughout the life of a construction project. It includes both initial construction and the future cost of maintenance and rehabilitation. Hub researchers have demonstrated the importance of accounting for the uncertainty in future material prices in assessing life-cycle costs.
These same issues surface in homes and commercial buildings. A Hub study on quantifying life-cycle cost, environmental impact, and hazard resistance addresses the need to include hazard resistance in building design decisions, especially in light of the increase in damage caused by recent natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. CSHub research is finding ways to determine the long-term benefits of resilient and energy-efficient construction.
For more information on the CSHub, visit http://web.mit.edu/cshub/