May 10, 2018
AMO WatchFile Guest Column*

Michael McSweeney
President and CEO
Cement Association of Canada

 
Municipal politicians today are facing incredible challenges juggling the wants and needs of the taxpayer with their government's tight budgets and aging infrastructure.
 
With the increased pressures to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, the role of the municipal politician across the province - indeed across the country - has become even tougher.

 In fact, we heard repeatedly during the 2017 AMO conference last fall how the massive infrastructure deficit in municipalities across the province is devastating communities and how there is a need to make the most of available federal and provincial infrastructure dollars.

As one of the largest line items in most municipalities’ budgets, managing your municipality’s investments in its roadway infrastructure as effectively as possible is now even more essential.

There is no quick fix to this challenge. But there are 'best practices' approaches and solutions to help ensure optimal value from your roadway investments.

Lifecycle Assessment/Lifecycle Cost Assessment Approaches

Traditionally, governments have used a 'lowest initial cost' approach to infrastructure projects, roadways included. We now know better.
 
Research at leading institutions like MIT and the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute demonstrate the cost of maintenance and rehabilitation can represent as much as 45% of the lifecycle cost of a pavement. Similarly, the 'use' phase of the pavement can account for 25% to nearly 60% of its lifecycle GHG emissions.
 
In a letter I sent to AMO conference delegates last fall, I addressed the importance of taking into account the full lifecycle costs and environmental impacts when making infrastructure investments decisions.

I remarked then that "Now is the time for government to modernize its procurement process to ensure those dollars are spent as optimally as possible – lowering the full lifecycle costs of our infrastructure investments while maximizing opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure our communities against extreme weather."
 
Fortunately, free and easy-to-use integrated LCA and LCCA tools such as Athena Sustainable Materials Institute’s PavementLCA.com are available to help transportation engineers understand the full cost and carbon impacts of competing design and material combinations for a given pavement project.
 
Competitive Pavement Bidding Process

Many transportation departments specify their roads in asphalt simply because that is the way it has always been done. But research and real-world data show a procurement process that encourages competition between paving materials lowers prices, spurs innovation and improves quality.
 
A recent study showed that a municipality could pave 15% more road with the same budget by introducing alternative concrete and asphalt pavement design bids.
 
In truth, concrete roads are often less expensive — and almost always less expensive when lifecycle costs are considered, and with durability benefits your taxpayers will appreciate, load roads that aren’t riddled with potholes.
 
Concrete pavement: part of the solution

Year after year, road crews spend countless hours filling potholes, often disrupting traffic in the process and greatly inconveniencing your taxpaying citizens and their cars.
 
Concrete is resilient to extreme weather and harsh conditions, meaning virtually zero potholes.
All pavement eventually needs to be resurfaced, repaired or replaced, but the durability of concrete means there are significantly longer intervals between these activities.
 
Over a 50-year period, a concrete road requires only a third of the maintenance of an asphalt road. This saves money and helps spread out maintenance dollars more efficiently.
 
Some higher traffic roads made of concrete instead of asphalt can save municipalities over 15% on initial costs ($200,000 per lane kilometer) and a whopping 51% on maintenance costs ($180,000 per lane kilometer).
 
Innovative approaches like the use of concrete overlays can help preserve and rehabilitate existing roads, extending the life of existing asphalt, concrete or composite pavements by 15 years or more, while precast road panels dramatically cut construction time.
 
Altogether this means more choice, lower costs, less traffic congestion and disruption and less danger to road crews and drivers alike.
 
The infrastructure deficit in Ontario is massive. While we are entering an historic period of renewal and infrastructure spending, we must ensure those dollars are spent as optimally as possible. Today, this means lowering the full lifecycle costs of our infrastructure investments while maximizing opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure our communities against extreme weather. Fortunately, there are off the shelf solutions that can help ease the task for municipalities.

For more information, check out www.rediscoverconcrete.ca
 
AMO thanks the Cement Association of Canada, Platinum Sponsor of the 2017 AMO Annual Conference
 
*Disclaimer: The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is unable to provide any warranty regarding the accuracy or completeness of third-party submissions. Distribution of these items does not imply an endorsement of the views, information or services mentioned.