Change: A Constant for Concrete

Paving Article December 28, 2000
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Trying to keep up with American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) President/CEO Valentin J. Riva can be a daunting task. Riva balances his time interacting with members, working with ACPA chapter/states, representing the industry’s interests on Capitol Hill, and along with his staff, ushering in a new era for the concrete pavement industry. It’s an era which Riva is quick to say requires unprecedented levels of hard work, tenacity and focus—all of which he summarizes as “heavy lifting.” Ask anyone who knows him and you will likely hear Riva is almost always working, and when he’s not working he’s probably thinking, planning or doing something to advocate the use of concrete pavements.

ROADS & BRIDGES caught up with Riva recently to ask for his perspectives about the surface transportation industry. Here’s what he said:

R&B: This time last year, you predicted a “highly visible” road ahead. What’s happened in the past 12 months?

Riva: In the past year, ACPA has undertaken many initiatives to increase our visibility and stature. Our technical programs have always been excellent and have been regarded as such by industry. We knew sound technical service was only part of the equation, so we set forth to better understand the needs of our customers, members and the public-at-large. We collected a lot of data and analyzed it all very exhaustively. Most important of all, we asked questions and listened to what people said they needed. From this process, we’ve developed programs . . . and we’re implementing those programs, which are clearly focused on providing the best value and service to the public sector and industry alike.

R&B: So how has ACPA responded?

Riva: In a number of different ways. One is the formation of the Innovative Pavement Research Foundation (IPRF), a unique entity in that it brings together the mutual interests and strengths of the ACPA, Portland Cement Association and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

Along with other associations, companies and individuals, we were very actively involved in lobbying Congress to support the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the landmark legislation which provides $175 billion in highway funding, including $30 million in concrete pavement research. ACPA was instrumental in obtaining this research provision, which is the first-ever such funding for concrete pavement research. And, more recently, ACPA and the Federal Highway Administration have entered into a cooperative agreement for research and development, which directly involves the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials and the Transportation Research Board.

R&B: Aside from the R&D, what else has changed in the past year?

Riva: We’re providing better service to our members and our customers. We developed and implemented some very ambitious, very comprehensive projects, but we’ve got the right resources at ACPA national and among our chapter/states to make the plan work. By providing more information and better information at a faster pace, we will be able to provide our customers with what they need to make informed decisions about pavement systems.

We are working harder and more effectively than ever to educate, to transfer technology and otherwise share information with people who have an interest in quality concrete pavements. We are actively and positively improving the depth and breadth of services we provide—including technical service, research, education, promotion, lobbying and more.

The association is a growing entity, and it’s growing through a cooperative, positive spirit with public officials, chapter/states, members and others in the industry in whom the American people have placed a trust to ensure that their highways, airports, streets and roads are the best they can be. For our part, we are doing everything we can to help our customers deliver on the promise of quality, safety and durability—the very attributes of the product we so strongly advocate.

R&B: Is concrete pavement technology also changing?

Riva: Yes, the technology is constantly changing and evolving to yield quality products that are easy to use, safe, durable and versatile. Many people hear “concrete” and assume it’s a commodity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Ultra-thin whitetopping, our concrete pavement restoration strategies, fast-track pavement technology and other recent advents confirm that the product, the processes, the materials and the equipment are evolving to meet the needs of the public.

Technological advances notwithstanding, it’s also important to note that some of our “old pavements” perform spectacularly. There are still 70- and 80-year-old pavements that are still performing well—even after exceeding their design lives by a factor of two or more.

Of course, we also happen to have a complete “tool kit” of rehabilitation strategies which work easily and well on any pavement system.

R&B: So what lies ahead for the 21st century?

Riva: It’s no coincidence that from the beginning of this century through the “interstate era,” concrete was the material of choice—not only for the interstate—but for other highways, airports and roads. It was a time, when funding levels were sufficient to do things right, when there was pride in workmanship, and when the needs of the public were clearly understood and acknowledged by the policy-makers and roadbuilders alike.

We see these same variables as we head into the 21st century. Are we optimistic about the future? Unquestionably, and we stand ready to work with any public official who wants to better understand the investment value or other intrinsic values of our products.

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