February 7, 2019

Whitehouse, Alexander, Collins Renew Push for the IMAGINE Act to Develop Innovative Materials to Rebuild American Infrastructure

Bipartisan, bicameral bill would boost research and investments in cutting-edge materials to improve public works nationwide; Cicilline to introduce legislation in House

Washington, DC – Everyone from civil engineers to state and municipal officials to local communities are sounding the alarm about America’s outdated infrastructure, and calling on Congress to invest in more resilient roads, bridges, water systems, and other public works.  To lay the groundwork for that investment, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are introducing the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act to help develop cutting-edge materials that could vastly improve infrastructure nationwide.  Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tina Smith (D-MN) have joined as cosponsors of the bill.  Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) is introducing the bill in the House.

“We know it’s time to rebuild our infrastructure.  Promising new materials can make our public works safer and more durable, and respond better to challenges like sea level rise and more extreme weather.  That innovation will pay off big for every American,” said Whitehouse, who has worked closely with Rhode Island’s vibrant composite manufacturing industry to explore the range of applications for advanced materials in America’s infrastructure.  “I’m proud to join Senator Alexander and Congressman Cicilline to pursue the next generation of materials to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”

“When I was governor, I proposed and Tennessee enacted three road programs, and our state’s highway system is now one of the best in the country,” said Alexander.  “Good roads and zero road debt have helped attract manufacturing jobs and raise family incomes.  Research universities and national laboratories are our country’s ‘secret weapons’ —and this bill will help them develop new materials to improve our nation’s roads and bridges so we can continue to create more good paying jobs for American families.”

“Engineers in Maine and across the country are developing exciting new ways to improve our infrastructure by using innovative, resilient, and cost-effective materials and techniques,” said Senator Collins.  “The University of Maine’s Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center is at the forefront of efforts to transform our transportation network through cutting-edge solutions.  The IMAGINE Act will help foster this important research and translate it into practice.”

The bill would take a number of steps to promote the use of advanced infrastructure materials.  It would create a task force to examine standards and methods used to assess the federal government’s approval of materials for infrastructure projects.  It would promote research into new materials and building techniques.  And it would spur federal investment in vital bridge and water infrastructure projects that utilize innovative materials, prioritizing coastal and rural projects. 

“At a time when our deficient bridges, congested highways, outdated transit systems and leaky water pipes are costing American families $3,400 per year, it is time to improve outcomes and close the nation’s $2 trillion investment gap through development of innovative design, materials, construction methodologies maintenance procedures and operation techniques,” said Robin A. Kemper, P.E., President, American Society of Civil Engineers. “The IMAGINE Act incorporates these goals by encouraging the research and use of innovative construction materials and techniques and water and transportation projects across the U.S., and is an important first step in improving our nation’s infrastructure systems to make them fit for the 21st century.”

The IMAGINE Act would encourage the development of materials such as high performance asphalt mixtures and concrete formulations, geo-synthetic materials, advanced insulating materials, advanced alloys and metals, reinforced polymer composites and advanced polymers, nanocellulose and wood-based composites, coatings, highly functional adhesives, and other corrosion prevention methods used in conjunction with those materials, and any other material or aggregate materials as determined by the relevant agencies.  A range of stakeholders from innovative materials industries cheered introduction of the bill.

One provision of the bill would call on the Transportation Secretary to form innovative material hubs throughout the country to continue to drive research into and development of innovative materials for use in infrastructure projects.  The provision was inspired by the success of communities of materials manufacturers – like advanced composites makers in Rhode Island and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tennessee – that have leveraged their innovations and expertise to grow their industry.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921