FHWA invests $400 million in road longevity program

The Federal Highway Administration wants to make bridges that last 100 years and road surfaces that last 50 years, but what would this mean for the road construction industry? Federal officials have invested $400 million for research and technology in a road longevity program called “Get In, Stay In, Get Out, Stay Out.” The program is aimed at developing better, more resistant asphalt and concrete materials that would save the government construction money in the long run.

“When we talk about 50-year pavements and 100-year bridges, we believe these are practical and prudent goals,” Charles Churilla, research program manager for the highway administration, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re not saying that they will be put in place and never touched again, but we’re talking about stuff that can be done without any interruption to rush hour, so you are not seeing orange cones for three to six months.”

According to Churilla, while new construction techniques and materials are more expensive now, they could save money and repair time in the future.

In addition to research for new materials, the highway administration is also developing new ways of prompting contractors to finish early. In Kentucky, a contractor received $2.77 million in 2000 for finishing the widening of Interstate 275 early.

The same reward mentality has been used in Ohio, where contractors are paid a bonus for making concrete that meets certain strength and density requirements. On the downside, if the concrete doesn’t meet certain specifications, contractors can be fined. Some states have even gone so far as to request guarantees on the concrete on bridge and road projects. The same Kentucky contractor who was paid $2.77 million for finishing early was required to guarantee the work for 10 years and had to take out a $2.9 billion bond to insure it.

“This is all about trying to find the material that lasts the longest and getting the best bang for our buck,” Ted Hubbard, chief deputy engineer for Hamilton County, Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer.