IMAGINE Act Would Spur Use of Innovative Materials in Rebuilding American Infrastructure

On Aug. 1,U.S. Sens.Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), introduced the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. ACA supports the bipartisan legislation to encourage investing in these new techniques and materials, including paints and coatings, that would help to extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings for condition and performance.

ACA had signed onto a collation letter urging introduction of the legislation.

ACA believes that by protecting the surfaces to which they are applied, paints and coatings will be a significant contributor to any effort to improve U.S. infrastructure. Many of the nation’s roads, rails and bridges are falling into disrepair, while important aspects of the aviation system are outdated and in need of expansion or renovation, and the waterway system is hampered by aging locks and decades-old infrastructure. The bill, S. 3341, would promote the use of advanced infrastructure materials, by taking the following steps:

  • Creating a task force to examine standards and methods used to assess the federal government’s approval of materials for infrastructure projects;
  • Promoting research into new materials and building techniques; and
  • Investing in vital bridge and water infrastructure projects that utilize innovative materials, prioritizing coastal and rural projects.

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.

“American innovators have come up with materials with the potential to make our roads, bridges, water systems, and other important infrastructure far 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,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “I’m proud to join Senators Alexander, Rounds and Booker to help drive investment in the next generation of materials to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”

“When I was governor, I proposed, and Tennessee enacted three road programs, and our state’s highway system is now one of the best in the country,” added Sen. Alexander. “Good roads and zero road debt have helped attract manufacturing jobs and raise family incomes…Research universities and national laboratories are our country’s ‘secret weapons’ — and this bill will help them develop new materials to improve our nation’s roads and bridges, so we can continue to create more good paying jobs.”

One provision of the bill would call on the Transportation Secretary to form innovative material hubs throughout the country to continue to drive research into and development of innovative materials for use in infrastructure projects. The provision was inspired by the success of communities of materials manufacturers – like advanced composites makers in Rhode Island and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tennessee – that have leveraged their innovations and expertise to grow their industry.

Bipartisan, companion legislation is expected in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.

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