America’s public works projects need cutting-edge construction materials, say Rounds, Comstock

A newly introduced bipartisan, bicameral bill from U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) aims to spur the development of new and advanced construction materials to improve America’s transportation and water infrastructure systems.

“I strongly support investing in material research and the use of new technologies that can be used to improve our critical infrastructure,” Sen. Rounds said.

The Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, S. 3341 / H.R. 6653, would encourage the research and use of innovative materials and associated techniques in the construction and preservation of the domestic transportation and water infrastructure system, among other purposes, according to text of the bill in the congressional record.

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined Sen. Rounds in introducing S. 3341 on Aug. 1. The proposed legislation has been referred to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for consideration.

“As we continue to work toward a long-term infrastructure plan that enhances public safety, creates jobs and strengthens our economy, our bill will help pave the way for a stronger, safer and more cost-effective infrastructure system,” said Sen. Rounds.

Joining Rep. Comstock in introducing the companion H.R. 6653 on Aug. 3 were U.S. Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and David Cicilline (D-RI). The measure has been referred to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure; Science, Space, and Technology; and the Energy and Commerce Committees.

“Research and innovation are essential to getting better infrastructure outcomes for our tax dollars,” Rep. Comstock said. “The IMAGINE Act supports projects that will lead to cost-savings so our local governments can spend their tax dollars more efficiently and get longer lasting results.”

Among several provisions, the bill would promote the use of advanced infrastructure materials; authorize creation of a task force to scrutinize related standards and methods for assessing the federal government’s materials approval process; and call for research into new materials and building techniques, according to a summary provided by Sen. Rounds’ office.

Additionally, according to the summary, the IMAGINE Act would kickstart federal investment in bridge and water infrastructure projects that use the more modern materials in construction, particularly for projects in coastal and rural areas.

Sen. Whitehouse noted that newer materials have the potential to make the nation’s roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure more resilient and safe. “Using these materials in our public works will pay off big for the communities that rely on them and for the American taxpayer,” he said.

Rep. Etsy agreed and pointed out that the bill also would speed up project deployment and extend the life cycle of infrastructure projects.

“In Connecticut, public sector and private sector groups are rapidly advancing the use of innovative materials and techniques in infrastructure projects,” she said. “It is vital to the success of these projects that we begin to lay the foundation for more sustainable materials and productive techniques that will allow America to rebuild its infrastructure.”

The IMAGINE Act would encourage the development of materials such as high-performance asphalt mixtures and concrete formulations, geo-synthetic materials, advanced alloys and metals, reinforced polymer composites, aggregate materials and advanced polymers, according to the lawmakers’ summary.

Numerous industry stakeholders already support the bill, including the American Chemistry Council, the American Coatings Association, the American Composites Manufacturers Association, the Geosynthetic Materials Association, LafargeHolcim, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Owens Corning Plastics Industry Association and the Vinyl Institute, which together sent an Aug. 1 letter to Sen. Rounds, Rep. Comstock and their colleagues.

“Many of the groups signing this letter compete in the marketplace every day,” according to their letter. “But we are united in our commitment to work with you and other leaders in Congress to build a 21st Century infrastructure designed to meet the needs of our 21st Century challenges.”

The stakeholders concluded in the letter that “the tenets of the IMAGINE Act will be important components of a broad strategy to make the most of taxpayer dollars.”