The Southwest Concrete Pavement Association (SWCPA) achieved 10 notable goals for its membership – and the California & Nevada Concrete Pavement Industry in 2021.
Improved Caltrans Standard Plans & Standard Specifications
Through our strengthened relationships with Caltrans, we successfully implemented important changes to the Standard Plans and Specifications. The arbitrary 10-day wait before allowing traffic on new concrete pavement was eliminated, compressive cylinders replaced flexural beams for concrete pavement acceptance, and maturity testing was brought to the specification for determining open-to-traffic strength.
In addition, we worked to reduce the overdesign conservatism that exists for concrete pavement in the Caltrans Highway Design Manual. We have reached the last stage of that effort and we are seeing pavement design optimization result in thickness reductions of roughly 12%. In the process, we’ve discovered that current designs are predicted to last much longer than the 40 years that Caltrans is targeting.
Guided California’s “Buy Clean Concrete” Legislation
SWCPA was asked by the legislation’s author to provide industry comment and guidance on a recent bill working its way through the state legislature. SWCPA offered significant input and initiated major contractor-focused revisions to the bill. The bill was pulled for 2021 but has recently come back for 2022. We are continuing to shape this legislation in ways that benefit SWCPA members.
Standardized the Use of Concrete Overlays
SWCPA worked extensively with Caltrans in 2021 to advance the use of concrete overlays in California, and to recognize the sustainability benefits of concrete overlays through life-cycle assessment reporting. In this effort, SWCPA also worked to develop standard concrete overlay structural sections and design details that will help standardize the use of this pavement type in California.
Increased Caltrans Concrete Pavement Volume
For 2021, the volume (CYs) of concrete pavement used on the California State Highway System grew by 15%. This increase is for Caltrans work only (not including Design-Build, alternate procurement or other state/local agencies), with the concrete pavement volume growing from 730,000 CY in 2020 to 841,000 CY in 2021. This is a good sign and suggests Caltrans leaders are continuing to make wise investments with long-life pavement in our transportation network.
Leveled the Playing Field: The move to a 10-Year Rolling Average Real Discount Rate will significantly improve cost analysis of California’s pavement investments.
When engineers are evaluating pavement investment choices for projects – basically making pavement-type decisions based on economic cost, Caltrans uses Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA). For many years, in calculating the LCCA for projects, Caltrans has been using an outdated Real Discount Rate of 4.0%. Even though economic conditions have changed dramatically over the years, this rate has remained unchanged. The Real Discount Rate has been trending downward since 1985 and now sits at -0.3%.
Importantly, with the rate currently being used, the economics for new pavement work is heavily tilted in favor of pavements with low initial costs and high maintenance costs. The rate disparity has resulted in many years of underestimating the actual costs of future maintenance.
To give long-life, low-maintenance pavements a fair opportunity, SWCPA has been working to bring the OMB rate information and FHWA recommendations to light.
In December 2021, we learned from the State Pavement Engineer that Caltrans is in the final phase of changing the Real Discount Rate used in LCCA from the current 4.0% to a rolling 10-year average, which is currently 1.1%. We wholeheartedly support and applaud Caltrans’ decision.
Supported the Adoption of Portland Limestone Cement
We also supported the adoption of PLC to the standard specifications. The door is now open for more productive collaboration on similar changes. We recently introduced an initiative of 11 topics that were brought forward by our contractor members, and we are actively engaged with Caltrans on these topics.
Initiated Development of Concrete Pavement Workshops for 2022
We are engaging with Caltrans, FHWA, and concrete pavement professionals to conduct a series of workshops for 2022. The goal of these educational events is to develop a team of concrete pavement experts in California, so we are in a better position to improve quality, performance, and sustainability of concrete pavements.
Hosted NICC 2021 Las Vegas & Reno
On November 2 & 3, SWCPA co-hosted the 19th Annual Nevada Infrastructure Concrete Conference in Las Vegas and Reno, working closely with NDOT, FHWA Nevada, and Tom Tietz and the California Nevada Cement Association to showcase presentations by industry experts, research specialists, and agency leaders. Both conference days were very well attended by key NDOT team members, Nevada state officials, contractors, designers, and other members of the concrete infrastructure industry.
In 2021, we launched this news bulletin, Innovation Highway – Paving the Sustainable Road to the Future, and published 12 issues featuring 31 unique articles, distributed to more than 1,000 readers, like yourself, within the concrete pavement industry.
Welcomed New Board Members and Contractors
We welcomed new Board of Directors members in 2021 from OHLUSA and Granite Construction, strengthening our membership, which grew as well, with a 10% increase in contractor membership.
Your Support Keeps the Work Going Strong
With your help, we can continue to improve standard plans and specifications, along with educate and inform agencies and clients about the intelligent choice of concrete pavement for our roadways, and ensure that the playing field remains level and fair in evaluating the high performance, long-life, and sustainability of concrete pavement.
If you’re not a member yet of SWCPA, we encourage to join today. Just give Executive Director Charles Stuart a call at 714.914.3425 and he will get you on the road to membership.