On the watch list

May 4, 2015

NAPA pays close attention to new LCCA procedure

NAPA is the trade association charged with representing the asphalt-pavement industry before the U.S. Congress and federal regulatory agencies.

Our activities in Congress are guided by two principles: First, we support a robustly funded, multiyear highway bill; also, we act as our industry’s watchdog on issues that may affect our competitive position. 

The next big opportunity for NAPA and its members to storm Capitol Hill in support of a highway bill will be the Transportation Construction Coalition’s Legislative Fly-In, May 30-31. In a typical year, about 400 citizen lobbyists attend the Fly-In; and in a typical year, at least three-quarters of the attendees are NAPA members. We are proud of the asphalt industry’s vigorous support of the Fly-In. We’re also proud that we have consistently communicated the same message: Pass a robust multiyear highway bill. 

What NAPA does not do is to seek legislation that might tilt the playing field to favor our pavement material over the competing one. We don’t believe that Congress should be making engineering decisions—we leave engineering to engineers. 

But when we see an industry group pursue a strategy aimed at increasing its share of the market by mandating a pavement material, we go to battle. 

Back in the early 1990s, Congress mandated that a certain portion of all asphalt roads include crumb rubber. This was the original unfunded mandate. A large coalition of industry groups—including NAPA, AASHTO and APWA—protested this attempt at engineering via legislation. The mandate was repealed, and today asphalt rubber is used successfully in many states based on its merit.

In 2011, we saw an attempt in Congress to bias the life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) process in favor of concrete pavements and structures. This attempt would have affected all construction products, including steel, wood and corrugated pipe—not just asphalt. This new unfunded mandate also would have caused unimaginable bureaucratic red tape and delays. 

In its role as watchdog for the asphalt industry, NAPA went into combat. Associations representing other construction materials also joined the fray. The result was that Congress modified the proposal for a mandate for a new LCCA procedure and instead asked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the matter.

We are confident that when OMB, GAO and Congress examine this issue thoroughly, they will find that state departments of transportation are already using LCCA as a means of evaluating the long-term economic viability of pavement designs. 

NAPA has confidence in the engineers at DOTs to design and analyze pavement using the latest technology calibrated by actual data culled from historical experience and to make sound decisions. 

When the industry joins together for the TCC Legislative Fly-In in Washington on May 30-31, NAPA members won’t be trying to skew the pavement market in favor of asphalt. We will let our product stand on its own merits. 

And we will again be taking the same message to Capitol Hill: Passing a robustly funded, multiyear highway bill is in the best interest of the country. AT

About The Author: Acott is president of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Lanham, Md.

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