Cement is the primary ingredient in concrete, an essential construction material and a basic component of our nation’s infrastructure. In 2021, 109 million metric tons of cement were consumed in the United States used for the construction of highways, bridges, tunnels, mass transit systems, airports, runways, sidewalks, bike trails, dams, spillways, reservoirs, drinking and wastewater infrastructure, and commercial and residential buildings. Due to the durability of concrete structures, engineers look to concrete to improve the resilience of infrastructure assets, especially with the increase in natural disasters.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) included a long-term reauthorization of the surface transportation program enabling states and communities to make much needed investments critical to the country’s economic growth by ensuring the efficient movement of goods and people. In addition, the IIJA included a roughly 200 percent funding increase for highway formula programs and a more than 30 percent increase for public transit formula programs, along with new transportation initiatives. This will provide states and communities the certainty needed to not only address the backlog in repair but also invest in larger projects to address greater challenges within the nation’s surface transportation network.
Unfortunately, the IIJA did not address the long-term revenue shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund. Congress must act to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund to ensure states and municipalities can continue to maintain their transportation assets in a state of good repair as well as plan and build new projects to improve the movement of goods and people.
Cement is critical to the construction of roadways in communities across the country. Roadways built with concrete have a service life of 30 to 50 years without the need for repeated resurfacing, frequent repairs, or patching. This durability means concrete roadways can better withstand the growth in natural and climate related disasters. In light of the growth in climate related disasters, the IIJA placed attention on what can be done to address climate and improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure.
Cement is critical to the construction of a wide range of water infrastructure projects, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects, wastewater and drinking water projects, and ports across the country. Additionally, our nation’s rivers, great lakes, and ports are critical to the shipment of cement throughout the United States.
Congress must continue to pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) every two years to advance Corps projects to help communities invest in flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, navigation, hurricane and storm damage reduction, and water supply projects. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act makes a historic investment in updating both the nation’s drinking and wastewater infrastructure. As part of this, the IIJA also authorizes Environmental Protection Agency programs to help communities improve resilience and adapt to climate change of their drinking and wastewater systems.
Congress must pass legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration this year. Airports across the country are continually working to modernize their infrastructure. Concrete is a critical building material for the construction of airports and runways. To help airports meet these needs, the cement industry supports lifting the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and continued funding for the Airport Improvement Program.
Continuing to deliver applied research and development of technologies for airfield pavements that provide high quality, durable, safe, and cost-effective airfield pavements is important. For these reasons, the cement industry supports the reauthorization and funding for the Airfield Pavement Technology Program.
One of the pillars of the PCA Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality is increasing the use of lower-carbon cements. Portland-limestone cement replaces traditional portland cement on a one-to-one basis and produces concrete with equivalent performance but with a carbon footprint that is up to ten percent less than traditional portland cement. Portland-limestone cement is a market ready and proven low-carbon construction material. With increased demand, the cement industry is not only ready to produce more portland-limestone cement but also continue to work to reduce the embodied carbon on their product while ensuring the same performance. Nearly 20 percent of all cements consumed in the United States are now lower-carbon cements, including portland-limestone cements and blended cements, up from less than five percent two years ago.
To further advance the use of portland-limestone cement, federal agencies should include references to portland-limestone cement in their specifications, reducing one of the barriers to further increase the percent of lower-carbon cements used in the United States. Additionally, as the federal government seeks to advance the use of lower-carbon construction materials it is important to take a full life-cycle approach to the carbon footprint of an infrastructure asset. There are different places where various construction materials have lower carbon footprints.
The Inflation Reduction Act included several provisions related to advancing the use of lower-carbon construction materials. As various agencies work to implement these provisions, it is important to structure the programs in a way that advance market-ready and proven lower-carbon construction materials and takes a full life-cycle approach.
In 2022, there were 15 billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters across the United States. This is the eighth year in which the United States has experienced more than ten billion-dollar weather and climate related disasters demonstrating the need to prioritize investments in resilient infrastructure. Research indicates investment in resilience and mitigation yields a $13 saving for every $1 invested.
Due to its durable nature, concrete is the most disaster-resilient construction material. Concrete construction reduces building costs after natural disasters. Policy steps taken to improve the resiliency of the nation’s infrastructure should take into account the durability of construction materials. It is also important to recognize projects to improve resiliency frequently incorporate different components that work together to improve resiliency. For example, a roadway that experiences frequent flooding may be built with concrete and have a bioswale to help redirect and move the stormwater out of the roadway.
It is also important to recognize that building with concrete improves the resiliency of a building and contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Roads and bridges built with concrete help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the use phase, reducing excess fuel consumption.
Federal infrastructure policy should first take steps to improve the resiliency of the nation’s infrastructure and second recognize the role of concrete in doing this.