On Aug. 2, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Reps. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.-5) and Barbara Comstock (Va.-10) introduced the Innovative Materials in American Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act. The bipartisan bill would direct pavement technology research and encourage innovative use of construction materials to enhance the durability and extend the service life of pavements.
The legislators say the purpose of this Act is to encourage the research and use of innovative materials and associated techniques in the construction and preservation of the domestic infrastructure network to accelerate the deployment and extend the service life of infrastructure projects and improve its economy, resilience, maintainability, sustainability and safety
According to the proposed bill, ‘Innovative material’ is defined to include a variety of innovative materials, including, high performance asphalt mixtures and concrete formulations, geosynthetic materials, advanced alloys and metals, reinforced polymer composites, aggregate materials, advanced polymers, and other materials as determined by the appropriate agency or department head. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.
"While great strides have been made in developing pavement technologies that increase the use of recycled asphalt pavements and deploying warm-mix asphalt, the IMAGINE Act will lead the way in developing the next generation of pavements that will be even more safe, more sustainable, and more economical," National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) Chairman Craig Parker says.
The legislation also requires the Secretary of Transportation to designate, through a competitive selection process, innovative material hubs (e.g., the National Center for Asphalt Technology) to further drive research and development of innovative materials. A Task Force will be created to assess existing standards and test methods for the use of innovative materials in infrastructure, identify key barriers in the standards area that inhibit broader market adoption, and develop new methods and protocols, as necessary, to better evaluate innovative materials. The Task force will be chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and will bring together the Federal Highway Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other applicable standards development organizations.
According to NAPA Executive Vice President Jay Hansen, NAPA worked very closely with the sponsors of this legislation. "We see this as the starting point for discussions on the research title of the FAST Act, which will have to be reauthorized in the next Congress," Hansen said.
A companion bill was filed the same day in the Senate by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).