Asphalt has always been and continues to be the pavement of choice for America. At present, 94 percent of the roads in America are surfaced with asphalt. For those who know the benefits of asphalt, there is no substitute. Difficult economic times, however, are causing some to suggest that owners and specifiers take a second look when it comes to pavement type selection. In the asphalt community, we welcome this opportunity to discuss the benefits of our product and why asphalt is right for America, right now and into the future.
There is no doubt that societal trends and economic realities will shape the market going forward. Those driving factors include public funding issues, an emphasis on sustainable growth and livability, unemployment trends, and future supply/capacity. Accounting for all of these factors, asphalt is perfectly positioned to address future markets in both highways and other infrastructure.
Crisis in Funding
Publicly funded highway programs make up about 65 percent of the asphalt pavement market and that funding is challenged like never before. The bulk of funding at the federal level comes from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) which is financed primarily by the federal gas tax. Unfortunately, the federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, has failed to keep pace with inflation and the soaring costs of construction and materials. The value of the 18.3 cents federal gas tax rate will have declined 55 percent to 8.3 cents between 1998 and the end of 2015. Given the economics and market uncertainties, highway funding priorities for the foreseeable future will revolve around fixing and preserving existing pavements.
Emphasis on System Preservation and Maintenance
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials estimates that spending $1 to keep a road in good condition prevents spending $7 to reconstruct it once it has fallen into poor condition. Which pavements promote the best state of good repair and provide the greatest economic competitiveness in the long term? The answer is asphalt.
There are approximately 18 billion tons of asphalt pavement on America’s roads. These pavements are infinitely reusable and recyclable, so they are like a bank where future generations can obtain resources when they need them. Asphalt is the most cost-effective way to build and pave roads, both in the actual material and the cost of traffic delays. Asphalt pavements were always durable, but technology has created pavement structures that, for practical purposes, last forever.
Asphalt Is Essential to Livable Communities
Because asphalt is a renewable, sustainable material, it is environmentally friendly. What may surprise some is that asphalt fits very well into livable communities – places where people have multiple transportation options.
To learn more, view or download the white paper “America Rides on Us” by clicking here.