By Pete Grass, P.E., CAE
Optimism cautiously abounds. That’s my takeaway from many meetings and conversations ranging across the United States and abroad, among many different allied trade association leaders and importantly our Asphalt Institute members. They look forward to participating in the conversations related to improving infrastructure investments over the long term.
Not just in the U.S. either – most countries we see have neglected long-term pavement maintenance and construction spending to the point where they are consistently reported in poor condition, impacting safety, the ability to conduct predictive commerce and have a negative impact both on the quality of life and economic prosperity for our citizens. If fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 report gives U.S. roads a “D” rating of poor and we look forward to their next report, coming out this year, to help fuel the decisions needed to increase infrastructure spending in a sustained and meaningful way.
Despite the optimism, we cannot simply wait for solutions from others – our ability to effect change where we are remains critical to efforts to increase spending on infrastructure whether it be for much needed additional capacity or increased maintenance spending. Many of the tools we need to obtain investment capital are available today through public-private-partnerships or other mechanisms.
Agencies at all levels must work to articulate infrastructure needs from both a capacity and maintenance standpoint in a way that resonates with others – showing impacts driven by data. Safety can be quantified. Bottlenecks and their delay costs can be quantified. Quality of life can be quantified. And so on. It takes a little innovation in some cases, but as stewards of infrastructure, we must form these compelling need statements based on facts and historical, predictive methodology.
One brighter, more immediate spot in all this is what we’re seeing in our local world. That is in training. The Asphalt Institute typically sees thousands of students annually in various seminars and classes ranging from our basic binder course to asphalt rheology and everything in between. Last year (2016) was strong in this area in terms of student count. And in 2017 we’re seeing this trend remain strong and even pick up more. Our Asphalt Institute international training requests are up too – a broad, positive sign.
We can all take steps to help articulate the need for responsible infrastructure investment; putting available resources to best use. Our individual efforts to assure our employees are trained and ready to professionally participate in this effort is an important one, too. Take a look at what we offer and make this the year you’ll send a few of your folks for training. It is well worth the investment.
Grass is the Asphalt Institute President.