Hops & Highways S2 E12: The Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse & Asphalt's Pledge to be Net-Zero by 2050

Jess & Dormie talk about the Pittsburgh bridge collapse and the ramifications of delaying funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We also share news from the NAPA annual meeting, including the asphalt industry's pledge to be net-zero by 2050.

With the collapse of the Forbes Avenue Bridge in Pittsburgh, funding for infrastructure is once again in the news. The passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides historic investments for our bridges, but funding is being held up in Congress due to the delay in the passage of an appropriations bill. Hear details from Jess & Dormie on this episode of Hops & Highways. 

Also, congratulations to our first Asphalt Drum Mixers prize package winner, Richard Smith with Shelley & Sands will be getting his jacket and cup in the mail. Want to be a winner next week? Fill out the form below: 

J: This week, Dormie and I traveled to Phoenix to participate in the National Asphalt Pavement Association annual meeting. It was so great to be back with our industry peers and to be able to network with them in person instead of behind a computer. There are some big changes coming to the asphalt industry and we want to share some of them with you today. First and foremost, implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or BIL is happening. But first, Congress needs to sign an appropriations bill and not another continuing resolution. States and associations cannot begin to fulfill the promise of the BIL expected by the public until a when full-year appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 becomes available.

D: Without a full-year appropriations bill, the Highway Users Alliance, a coalition of 67 public and private sector stakeholders in the transportation industry, anticipates that states, local governments, and public transit agencies will not be able to access the BIL’s roughly 20 percent funding increase for highway formula programs and more than 30 percent increase for public transit formula programs, along with any new transportation initiatives that Congress provided for in the IIJA. Instead, under the current CR that extends three months past the signing of the IIJA, the obligation limitation that dictates spending levels for many federal transportation programs remains well below what is included in the infrastructure legislation.

J: Further emphasis on this delay of crucial infrastructure funding has been pushed to the forefront of the news today as all eyes are on the Forbes Avenue Bridge Collapse in Pittsburgh. 10 people have been reported as injured with four of them still hospitalized. The bridge that collapsed is used by an estimated 14,500 vehicles daily. President Joe Biden was set to speak in the state today regarding the supply chain and the BIL but his visit was shifted to the site of the bridge collapse.

D: When Biden visited the site today, he vowed that he would be sending money to all bridges in the country stating QUOTE “We're going to fix them all. Not a joke, this is going to be a gigantic change. There's 43,000 nationwide. And we're sending the money," Biden said, referring to the bridges in poor condition across the nation. According to the ASCE there are more than 45,000 bridges in poor condition nationwide that carry millions of people per day and we are fortunate that no one was killed as a result of this bridge collapsing today.

J: The Highway Users Alliance, and the entire construction industry, knows the hard work and effort that Congress put into the BIL and are urging Congress to put these much needed infrastructure and safety investments envisioned in this bipartisan package to work as soon as possible. The Alliance asked this week that if Congress is unable to finish the Transporation Housing and Urban Developement Appropriations bill by February 18, 2022, that Congress includes an anomaly to provide full obligation limitation levels in any future Continuing Resolution. They say this will fully honor the BIL’s funding levels for all transportation-related programs

D: The Alliance said that delays in providing the much-touted funding increases from the BIL is QUOTE “wholly unacceptable” UNQUOTE and will cause significant project disruptions, reduced construction and manufacturing employment, and delays in delivering critical transportation infrastructure improvements—just when Americans were promised the most ambitious infrastructure package of our time. So again we’re waiting on Congress to get it together, but until then, we’ll be here drinking beer and praying that no other infrastructure fails in the meantime.

:::WE DRINK:::

J: In case you missed it, The U.S. Department of Labor has withdrawn its most recent COVID Emergency Temporary Standard, known as the Vax/Test Rule that would have required employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees were vaccinated or tested weekly. Likely as a result of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, OSHA withdrew its ETS but also acknowledged the agency may continue to move forward with redeveloping such a standard under its normal rulemaking process. If that occurs, the agency still may develop such vaccination/test requirements for targeted industries like healthcare, which have higher risk potential compared to, e.g., outdoor construction. 

D:  The agency also asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss judicial challenges to the emergency standard as moot. With the ETS no longer in effect, QUOTE “petitioners will no longer be subject — or face any risk of being subject — to the challenged requirements from which they sought relief." UNQUOTE. Regardless, OSHA’s authority still allows the agency to utilize its ‘General Duty Clause’ to require a safe workplace and employers should continue to take appropriate action to control or minimize workplace transmission. The construction industry’s COVID Response Plan template or similar should still be utilized to ensure employee safety. Let’s have a drink to this being behind us, for now at least!


J: Also news coming out of this week was the asphalt industry’s pledge to produce net-zero carbon pavements by 2050. Many countries, industries, and companies worldwide are pledging to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a goal echoed by the asphalt pavement industry. NAPA has made this pledge with many industry stake-holders and we want to thank them for their efforts and share with you what this means for the industry. As a result, NAPA has set four industry goals for Climate Stewardship Toward Net Zero Carbon Emissions and laid out plans for the industry to take action now.

D: First, we want to achieve net zero carbon emissions during asphalt production and construction by 2050. What this means is that the industry will, on a net basis, not contribute any carbon emissions from its own operations - meaning materials, equipment, etcetera. Many countries, industries, and companies worldwide are pledging to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a goal echoed by the asphalt pavement industry.

J: Next, NAPA will partner with customers to reduce emissions through pavement quality, durability, longevity, and efficiency standards by 2050. The asphalt industry relies on customers and stakeholders to achieve net zero carbon emissions and owners must ask for products and implement practices that lead to net zero emissions. NAPA has committed to partnering with stakeholders to achieve a sustainable business case for these actions.

D: The industry also wants to develop a net zero materials supply chain by 2050. Supplier partnerships and net zero commitments are critical for the industry to achieve net zero carbon emissions. What the industry asks of and gets from its suppliers counts toward its own net zero goal.

J: Finally, the goal is to transition to electricity from renewable energy providers in support of net zero carbon electricity generation by 2050 and reduce electrical intensities.The power generation industry is moving toward net zero carbon, which the asphalt industry can leverage to reduce its own emissions.

D: This all sounds simple, but it's a long road ahead to net zero in the asphalt industry, but the change is coming and we all need to commit to doing it together. You can see all “The Road Forward” NAPA priorities at www.asphaltpavement.org/climate. Let’s drink to change, even though it can be difficult, it’s important. 

:::WE DRINK:::

J: Dormie said it, but I’m going to echo it. It sounds easy, but it’s going to be hard work and we are all in it together. Social and corporate responsibility will start to become a huge pressure on asphalt companies moving forward, and being able to show you’re making efforts to reduce your carbon footprint will be a big part of your success in this space. So this week we want to share with you some easy “energy saving” wins that can immediately help you reduce consumption at the plant and therefore lower your environmental impact. 

D: We will start with stockpiles.The biggest consumer of energy is the burner and dryer at the asphalt plant which is why your stockpiles play a huge role in saving your company money. In fact, a 1% decrease in moisture in your stockpile decreases your costs by 12% because your dryer doesn’t have to work as hard. Covering your aggregates with a fabric structure is the best way to help prevent moisture from even getting to your aggregates. If that is not an option, sloping the stockpiles properly at an ideal 4% slope will also help. Be sure to have the water drain towards the north.

J: Next, proper insulation can make or break your plant efficiency. If you want to reduce fuel usages, examining and repairing insulation on all heated areas is important. Many mix facilities do not insulate their piping because it’s difficult to do, but proper pipe insulation can save you big money in terms of energy efficiency. Insulation blankets can be utilized to cover those areas that may be difficult to insulate. The blankets can easily be removed and reattached when service is needed.

D: While the next win may not have anything to do with your plant components, making sure you have a proper schedule in place with the field is paramount to reducing costs at the plant and controlling plant waste. A proper schedule will have a direct impact on energy as any overruns will result in heating materials that are not ever selling. 

J: Reductions in raw materials used, whether it is aggregate and asphalt, burner fuel or equipment fuel, means plant owners have to buy less to produce the same amount of material. These savings should go directly to the bottom line for any producer. Accurate orders, limiting the number of mix changes and knowing plant timing will all reduce waste generated every day you produce asphalt mixtures. 

D: To help with your energy consumption needs, Energy Star has launched the Energy Treasure Hunt campaign to help companies undergo a collaborative quest to uncover the ways to improve energy efficiency. Their hope is these events help reveal the untapped potential for energy savings in America’s commercial and industrial facilities. If you’re looking to make some changes today, Energy Star will outline the steps facilities can take and will even provide treasure maps for facilities to use where they can identify areas at their plant that might be utilizing too much energy and how they can rectify them. These savings should go directly to the bottom line for any producer, we hope that they will help your facility produce in a more energy-efficient manner, cheers.