Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We Build and Maintain the Infrastructure We Need

(from the January Editor's Note of AsphaltPro magazine)

When I told the people at my last place of employment the type of magazine I was going to work fulltime for, one of my co-workers released a controlled tirade about sensible alternative transportation and how "everyone wants sustainable modes of transportation and not more roads," or something to that effect. I stopped listening to her at about the fifth or sixth word to prevent my unplanned launch across the lunch table, because I like her and didn't think strangling her would prove it.

Sometimes you can inform people that properly maintained roads mean safer driving conditions for the end user (my former co-worker's driving-age children, for example). Sometimes you can inform people that asphalt is the most recycled product on the planet. Sometimes you can inform people that an entire industry is united in its efforts to build energy-efficient production facilities and to practically eliminate water vapor and particulate emissions from its production process. And sometimes you just have to sit back and listen to people harp on the fact that when they lived in New York they didn't even own a car. You know, if I lived in the heart of New York City, I wouldn't own a car either. But that's a self-preservation tactic, not fuel-conservation. I own a car for more than the convenience of getting to random appointments. I own it for the sense of freedom.

A more zealous tree-hugger than I might point out that taking a plane or train would free up a percentage of my money. But we environmentalists purchase carbon offset credits after purchasing plane tickets—thus negating the cash saved on car expenses—and at least one train system is causing a new kind of tax burden. City Council members in Olathe, Kan., are spending $5.1 million to figure out how to silence the train whistle blows yet keep the general driving public safe near junctions. Residents want "quiet zones" in some of the hoity toity areas of greater Kansas City, so taxpayers get to spend spend spend while City Council members research how to get rid of those pesky noises. Before I speak too harshly about Kansas, please note in the State-by-State department this month, page 8, that KDOT is supporting the use of RAP in higher quantities in its surface layers of road projects, so that might balance out the bizarre-factor, but I don't know if it'll make up for the dollars wasted. $5.1 million is difficult to replace.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for public transportation (when you have armed federal marshals on board), but I'm also a proponent for maintaining our current infrastructure with asphalt products so that the general public has safe driving surfaces. Where growth necessitates it, I'm a proponent for proper, well-planned, full-depth asphalt new construction. The beauty of our industry's product is it can be assembled with a percentage of reclaimed materials whether it's an in-place recycle project, a full-depth new construction project or something in between. No matter what it is, the tree-hugger in me proposes good tunnels for the wildlife to get through to the other side.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender

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