We kick off the New Year concrete-style

Jan. 2, 2020

This column published as "And Here We Go ..." in January 2020 issue

Now that 2020 is officially underway, it looks as though there is reason to be optimistic about the world of construction. 

According to a recent economic forecast developed by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), our national infrastructure market is looking at a healthy 5% growth this year. It is expected to crest $300 billion, continuing the trend that saw 2019 follow 2018 with 8% growth, thanks in large part to gains in highway, street, and pavement work. (Never underestimate the growth potential in a robust standard maintenance program, right?)

Of course, there is concern at the federal level. Not only is the FAST Act in for a potentially fast end in September, it seems fairly clear that, despite some promising advances coming out of committee, it is unlikely a new multiyear package will see ratification before the looming election cycle kicks into high gear. Consequently, one area worth keeping a close watch on is movement at the state level to find new and dynamic means of generating revenue, or bolstering means already proven to work. Some of the largest state-level construction markets—I’m looking here at Texas, California, New York, Illinois, and Washington State, among others—are primed for “stability or growth,” according to ARTBA’s analysis. In other circumstances, an either-or scenario might sound fishy, but considering the desperate needs we have for state of good repair, to say nothing of mobility and capacity improvements, this is nothing to give a side-eye toward.

This month, as is our tradition, Roads & Bridges focuses on the concrete world. It’s an awfully big world, and so in this issue you will find what we hope is an informative and useful array of stories about it. 

Associate Editor Tim Bruns looks at an intersection improvement project in Florida at a junction plagued by off-tracking and rutting. This was no run-of-the-mill fix-up, but a 22-phase toughie that contended with a limited right-of-way and more than a few affected local businesses. 

Historic preservation is always a fine thing. There will always be aspects of our infrastructure worthy of retention. Case in point: a pair of stone and concrete bridges in the City of Brotherly Love, both members of the National Register of Historic Places and each crucial to their respective communities. The manner and method of their life extensions starts on page 22.

Finally, no look at the concrete market would be complete without a peek at research and materials innovations. Enter researchers from from the University of Minnesota at Duluth, whose work concerns finding the correct structural fiber for thin concrete pavements—a paving choice that is gaining in popularity and showing some excellent results in application-—and the American Concrete Paving Association’s Bill Davenport on performance engineered mixes and their impact on quality and sustainability.

As for the R&B team, if you are planning to attend this month’s ATSSA Traffic Expo in NOLA or next month’s World of Concrete extravaganza in Vegas, look for us there. We’ll be on hand on the show floor and look forward, as we always do, to connecting with the R&B faithful. 

Cheers and enjoy the issue!

About The Author: Budzynski is senior managing editor of Roads & Bridges.

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