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David V.
Republican LA

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  • Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015—Conference Report

    by Senator David Vitter

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    Read More about Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015-- Conference Report

    VITTER. Mr. President, I wish to clarify today a provision included in the FAST Act conference report.

    In order to build and restore the Nation's highway infrastructure without breaking the bank to do so, we are going to need the best and latest in cost-saving construction technologies to help us attain that goal.

    I supported a provision in the Senate bill that would do just that with regard to construction for key highway components, such as bridge abutments, erosion control on highway waterways, and sound walls. My language specifically identified ``innovative segmental wall technology for soil bank stabilization and roadway sound attenuation, and articulated technology for hydraulic sheer-resistant erosion control'' as technologies for research and deployment action by the Federal Highway Administration, FHWA.

    A core value shared by all three technologies is that they can save taxpayer dollars. And we should certainly encourage FHWA to engage in research and deployment on them.

    For example, one of the practical and expensive problems with highway construction is moving and dispensing with excavated dirt. Segmental retaining wall, or SRW, technology can reduce transportation construction costs to the taxpayers by allowing the use of in situ soils in building segmental retaining walls rather than treating the excavated dirt as waste and hauling it away. Using the native soils for bank reinforcement can save the hauling costs and time for dirt removal, also reducing construction time. Similar segmental unit technology can be used to provide additional choices that are also aesthetically appealing for transportation designers to consider for sound attenuation.

    And articulated segmented unit technology for erosion control, known as ACB for the concrete blocks usually used for this purpose linked together in a durable matrix, is especially durable and resistant to overtopping in high-water events. Overtopping is a major problem in high-water events that can degrade or ruin the existing erosion control measures. Rebuilding and replacing is always a huge cost that we should seek to avoid.

    While the conference report does not retain my provision, we still have options to save the taxpayers money. I would like to point out that provisions appear elsewhere in the conference report that can give FHWA essentially the same mission, albeit articulated in a different way.

    Section 1428 of the conference report states that ``the Secretary shall encourage the use of durable, resilient and sustainable materials and practices, including the use of geosynthetic materials and other innovative technologies, in carrying out the activities of the Federal Highway Administration.'' Section 1428 might be an alternate means of articulating the same concepts I supported with regard to the innovative segmental wall, or SRW, technology. SRW walls use concrete block facing materials that are obviously highly durable, resilient, and sustainable. These facing units are anchored into the soils using geosynthetic ties that are also highly tough and durable and described in Section 1428.

    In passing the conference report, I would like to clarify for FHWA staff to consider SRW technology, using the durable, resilient, sustainable materials anchored with geosynthetics as one of the technologies envisioned in Section 1428. ACBs and segmental block sound walls also fit the definition of durable, resilient, and sustainable materials and techniques set forth in this section and should enjoy a similar favorable view under the umbrella of Section 1428.

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