The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Food fight: Asphalt v. Concrete

14

January

The new year begins in old fashion in the Capitol: special-interest food fights, this time between the concrete and asphalt guys at the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.

The concrete industry says the Florida Department of Transportation isn’t fairly evaluating its product in estimating the costs of road designs. So it’s seeking some as-yet-undrafted mandate/requirement to, yup, “level the playing field” with the asphalt industry.

Asphalt is cheaper upfront ($5 million a mile vs. $15 million a mile for concrete), but it requires more maintenance. Lots of rival studies, and rival lobbyists etc. The last time the TED met, the concrete guys talked about the wonders of their product.

This morning, it was asphalt’s turn. And Ignacio Halley, president of Miami-based Community Asphalt, made his product sound positively wonderful. Halley said asphalt, a byproduct of fuel refineries, is a recycled resource, makes for a smoother ride than concrete, is easier to recycle, and tastes great/is less filling (okay, he didn’t say that last item).

“Don’t mandate something. Keep this in the hands of engineers,” Halley said.

Said Tim Kuebler, chairman-elect of Florida Concrete and Products Association, in a written statement:
"There are always two sides to every issue and scientific data on both sides, but the reality is that concrete does last longer and is a more sustainable and affordable product in long-term transportation planning. What we are asking for is to allow both products to compete fairly for state transportation projects, and that is a simple statutory change that will save Florida money, create jobs and support a Florida industry. Asphalt is made from foreign oil, concrete is a local product."

Engineers are no fans of any mandate, and neither was the FDOT. Former FDOT chief Jose Abreu, now the Miami-Dade's aviation director, successfully fought in 2005 to block a mandate from the Legislature that some projects be built with concrete as opposed to asphalt. He said engineers should make engineering decisions, not legislators.

“I didn’t buy my engineering degree at 7-11,” Abreu said.

In the House, TED chief Rich Glorioso said he wants to “level the playing field” but he doesn’t want to make engineering calls. He just wants the costs fairly evaluated.

“I don’t want to tell them what to do. I’m not an engineer, and I don’t want to be one,” Glorioso said.

Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:14pm]

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