Research and investments in innovative materials could improve infrastructure longevity and resilience
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, bipartisan legislation to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. Investing in new techniques and materials could help extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings for condition and performance.
The bill would fund research into new materials and building techniques, and would spur federal investment in bridge and water infrastructure projects that utilize innovative materials, prioritizing coastal and rural projects. The legislation also would create a task force to examine standards and methods used to assess the federal government’s approval of materials for infrastructure projects.
“Engineers in Maine and across the country are developing exciting new ways to improve our infrastructure by using innovative, resilient, and cost-effective materials and techniques, including those found in the forest products industry,” said Senator Collins. “The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is at the forefront of efforts to use 3D printing, cellulose, and other cutting-edge materials and techniques to transform every sector of our economy, from manufacturing to our transportation network. The invaluable work being done by the recently-established Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center, a consortium of universities led by UMaine, would also benefit from the investments included in the bill. The IMAGINE Act will help foster this important research and translate it into practice.”
“American infrastructure is ready for a once-in-a-generation modernization. To get it right, we need to use the most durable, cost-effective composite materials available to rebuild roads, bridges, water systems, and other key infrastructure,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our bipartisan bill will literally help build back better.”
“The IMAGINE Act will be critical to maintaining U.S. technological leadership in the advanced materials space, and the stakes are very high. New construction is expected to be worth $1.5 trillion in the U.S. in 2022, and the construction industry is worth more than 10% of the world GDP,” said Dr. Habib J. Dagher, Executive Director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. “Developing construction materials that are environmentally friendly, lighter, faster to install, and that will last longer will create jobs, save taxpayer dollars, and improve the safety of the traveling public. Can we IMAGINE bridges that can be built in days using materials that last decades with little maintenance? We applaud Senator Collins and her colleagues for challenging America's best engineers and scientists to IMAGINE."
“The American Composites Manufacturers Association applauds the leadership of Senator Whitehouse and Senator Collins,” stated American Composites Manufacturers Association Vice President John Busel. “The IMAGINE Act will advance and integrate innovative technologies and materials such as fiber reinforced polymer composites to sustainably rebuild our infrastructure and revitalize the U.S. economy.”
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.
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 uses of innovative materials in infrastructure projects. The provision was inspired by the success of regional manufacturing clusters – like advanced composites makers in Maine – that have leveraged their innovations and expertise to grow their industry.
Click HERE to read a summary of the bill.