Clear the way to use fly ash in road work

( 6-6-2012) Florida's construction industry is watching intently as a final agreement on the federal transportation bill is being reached. While Congress faces another self-imposed deadline, this fiscally important legislation continues to stall. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as the June 30 funding deadline looms for much needed infrastructure construction projects and a special surface transportation amendment that is both pro-growth and pro-environment.
The bipartisan amendment seeks sensible regulatory measures on fly ash, an end product of coal combustion. It would encourage fly ash recycling, which is beneficial to the environment and to the economy, with fly ash being a cost-effective product in building roads, tunnels and bridges. However, if the amendment fails, the cost and environmental benefits fail as well.
The cost savings of recycled fly ash products is a major advantage for taxpayers and construction firms. Fly ash materials keep repair and maintenance costs low, as the product is stronger and lasts longer than traditional road-building materials. According to a report from the American Roads and Transportation Builders' Association (ARTBA), more than 55 million tons of fly ash has been recycled for construction purposes across the nation.
ARTBA's report found Florida uses fly ash products for most of its concrete-based construction, and the estimated savings was nearly $160 million over five years. Approximately 10 percent of highway spending in Florida is on concrete products each year; imagine the economic effects if this valuable commodity was restricted.
The continued use and production of fly ash secures more than a quarter-million jobs. Many government and private organizations, ranging from the Environmental Council of States to Florida's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation, support the safe use of fly ash.
For these many reasons, federal lawmakers have proposed this amendment to allow for greater use of fly ash in transportation projects and provide greater EPA oversight on each state's fly ash regulations. We need transportation construction funding and we need road-building products. So I have to ask: What is the hold-up Washington?
Floridians and Americans deserve a well-funded federal transportation program. The preservation of a viable, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective road-building resource is just an added benefit. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and all the members of Florida's congressional delegation, should support the inclusion of the bipartisan fly ash amendment as they move the federal transportation bill forward. Putting the brakes on it now would create long-term troubles for our transportation infrastructure.
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