Takin' Hill to The Streets: Sustainable Asphalt Pavements on Congress’ Radar Screen

By August 09, 2023 Asphalt, Top Story


JAYS CORNER(Animated Social Media)

Readers of Jay’s Corner know the focus of this post is strictly on legislative and regulatory efforts focuses on Buy Clean procurement and its impact on the asphalt pavement industry.  Since February of this year, I wrote on implementation of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  Both bills passed during the 117th  Congress and are now being implemented by the Biden Administration and many Federal agencies.  

This post is about legislation pending in the 118th Congress that addresses “pavement sustainability” in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation and in the FY 2024 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (THUD).  Congress needs to pass legislation authorizing FAA programs and funding transportation programs before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2023, or pass legislation extending these programs into FY 2024 at current spending rates.  

FAA Reauthorization

On July 20, 2023 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3935, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, by a vote of 351-69.  The legislation reauthorizes the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that funds airfield pavement projects over five years (2024-2028) at $20 billion.  

On pavement sustainability, the legislation reauthorizes the Airfield Pavement Technology Research (APTR) Program, a joint asphalt-concrete research program that in the past was focused on durability.  Under the legislation, the APRT Program will shift from “durable airfield pavements” to “resilient and sustainable” airfield pavements.  The House language also requires the development of guidelines for sustainability and resiliency to reduce carbon emissions of asphalt and concrete airfield pavements.  

On June 13, 2023 the Senate Commerce Committee leadership introduced bipartisan legislation, S. 1939, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023.  Their bill also reauthorizes FAA programs over five years and provides $20 billion for AIP funds over the same period.

On the APTR Program, the Senate bill includes similar language calling on the Secretary of Transportation to carry out a program that “promotes the latest airfield pavement technologies to aid the development of safer, more cost effective, and more resilient and sustainable airfield pavements.”  

While the House of Representatives has approved its legislation, the Senate must schedule the bill for floor debate.  Both Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) have announced they would like to see this legislation pass Congress before the end of the year.  Since both bills call for the APTR Program to focus on “resilient and sustainable” airfield pavements, it’s a guarantee this language will be in the final bill once enacted by Congress.  

FY 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill 

Each year Congress must pass and the President must sign into law 12 appropriation bills funding different agencies in the Federal government.  Fiscal year 2024 begins on October 1,  2023, which means Congress is running out of time to move these bills through the legislative process after the House and Senate return next month from the summer break.  

Nevertheless, House and Senate Appropriation Committee have reported their respective versions of the FY 2024 THUD bill, and in these bills are provisions dealing with sustainability issues impacting the asphalt pavement industry.  If prior years serve as precedent, these issues will be collapsed into a single bill, clear both the House and Senate, and be sent to the President before the end of the calendar year.  

H.R. 4820, the House FY24 THUD bill, contains two directives dealing with sustainable pavements.  First, it requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to prepare a report to the Congress on the prevalence, cost, durability, and environmental impact of reclaimed asphalt pavements (RAP).  Secondly, the bill encourages the FAA to bring the aggregate industry into the joint asphalt-concrete APTR Program to develop sustainable uses of aggregates in airfield pavements.  

S. 2437, the Senate FY 24 THUD bill, contains two provisions dealing with sustainable pavements.  First, the legislation directs the FHWA to prioritize making infrastructure systems, including pavements, more resilient.  The legislation also addresses RAP in that it provides $5 million to develop and implement low-embodied carbon construction materials standards that increase the use of the low-embodied carbon construction materials.  

There are other provisions in these bills dealing with highway funding, Buy America, greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources, etc.  But this post is just about the sustainability provisions that will impact the asphalt pavement industry once these bills are enacted.  

Whether its airfield pavements, or highway and road pavements, the message is clear, Congress wants to the surface transportation network to be more sustainable in the years ahead.  There is no escaping it and the asphalt pavement industry is on the hook to provide the solutions for state DOT’s and airport owners to meet the new requirements.