AIT uses composite materials that are non-corrosive and sustainable to build bridges that are “maintenance-free,” requiring little or no maintenance for the expected 100-plus years of the superstructure’s lifecycle.
Hailed as the largest long-term investment in the nation's infrastructure in nearly a century, the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework covers funding for a broad range of future projects, none the least of which is the $109 billion for the nation's surface transportation system.
"The bipartisan framework for highway and bridges includes the biggest single investment — nearly $40 billion — for bridge infrastructure since construction of the Interstate Highway System over 60-plus years ago," said Greg Nadeau, former administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, chairman of Infrastructure Ventures and a Board Member of Maine-based Advanced Infrastructure Technologies (AIT), which engineers and manufactures composite bridges and other composite products. "These are historical levels of investment. I expect a sea change over the next 10 years in how we build infrastructure."
The Senate bill, titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes nearly $550 billion in new spending above what Congress had previously planned over the next eight years. Part of that is the reauthorization of the five-year surface transportation bill set to expire at the end of this year. The bill gives state agencies a sense of how much capital they can plan on for the coming years.
"Predictability is very important in this business," Nadeau said. "It's still not enough money, but these one-time and ongoing investments of predictable capital are going to leverage enormous investment and efficiency because they are federal dollars infrastructure owners can plan on over the next five years. We know the rules of the game for administration of highway and bridge projects. A 31-percent increase in public transit capital investment is also significant. All these dollars invested must be administered with maximum efficiency. Those investments should result in projects that will last and are more sustainable while using project delivery technologies that significantly enhance efficiency and accountability."
Much of these federal investments require state and local matching funds, which will leverage even more capital. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors most recent estimate, for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure, 13,000 jobs are created, Nadeau said.
"The spin-off benefit of this investment is significant. When you start looking at this level of funding and looking at the leveraging of job creation, out of the gate it's a massive economic impact. When you make those investments with a 21st-century mindset, the result can be not only efficiency, but sustainability, resilience and environmental benefits."
Nadeau cited AIT Bridges of Brewer, Maine, as an example of how a small business will be able to benefit from the investment plan and the predictability of those federal dollars. AIT uses composite materials that are non-corrosive and sustainable to build bridges that are "maintenance-free," requiring little or no maintenance for the expected 100-plus years of the superstructure's lifecycle.
"We're not a composite company that makes bridges," he said. "We're a bridge company that utilizes composites. Composites provide structure and strength. Those are the kind of opportunities infrastructure owners need to evaluate as they begin the process of planning for the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.
"As states receive more resources to address more structures, they'll look at alternatives to ensure they are getting the biggest bang for their bucks. This introduces a new level of competition in the states' marketplace. Many infrastructure officials are looking for new age solutions, whatever the challenge may be. In this case, building structures smarter, faster and better that will last longer."
For a business like AIT Bridges, that means more production; more production equates to the hiring of new engineers which, in turn, generates new "high-quality jobs," including technicians for the manufacturing floor.
"Multiply what I just described among composite companies across the U.S," Nadeau said. "The more project demand there is, the more incentive to invest in systems that will achieve more sustainable outcomes. Sustainability is becoming a key policy objective for many infrastructure agencies and officials. Private sector innovators and companies will be incentivized to invest in new equipment and technology. That's the impact this level of funding will have across the board in our industry and across the supply chain. I believe this level of investment will be a significant catalyst for innovation." CEG
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