Executive Update: 2014 in Review — Successes and Opportunities

The close of 2014 marks the completion of my first full calendar year as WAPA’s executive director. In that time I have come to know and work closely with many of you, and I appreciate your dedication to improving Wisconsin’s transportation system and ensuring that our asphalt pavements are second to none. Our successes as an association wouldn’t be possible without your continued commitment and involvement, so thank you.

As planning continues through winter for the coming construction season, this is a good time to briefly reflect on the past 12 months and what WAPA accomplished as an organization together with our many partners in Wisconsin and around the nation.

WAPA's porous asphalt pavement
display model
You will likely have noticed by now the new communication tools WAPA has developed in the past year. This monthly Executive Update is one of them. It’s a way to get timely information and perspective quickly into your hands. WAPA’s completely redesigned website is another. We aimed for a clean and clear design that puts the most important information right at your fingertips. WAPA’s new exhibition booth has been a hit as well; we have received several requests for models of our porous asphalt display.

For WAPA’s 2014 Annual Conference, we worked hard to deliver speakers, sessions and exhibitors that participants would find valuable. Our December 2014 Executive Update addressed the conference in depth so I won’t say much here. I will mention, though, that post-survey comments confirmed that these efforts paid off — attendees were very pleased with the event and had some great suggestions for next year.

WAPA’s staff grew in 2014 as well. Deb Schwerman joined the team in May as WAPA’s technical director. She continues to provide invaluable perspective and expertise. Indeed, many of the activities below would not have been possible without Deb’s contributions.

WAPA was very busy with activities across the state to help increase awareness and technical understanding about asphalt pavements. To name just a few:

  • WAPA and the Wisconsin DOT jointly conducted a series of seminars in spring 2014 in each of WisDOT’s five regions. These “Asphalt 101” presentations were targeted at new state engineering staff to provide background on asphalt (what it is, how it’s made, etc.). We’re grateful to staff from WAPA member companies who gave hands-on demonstrations and answered questions.
  • Transportation Moves Wisconsin town hall meeting (Image courtesy of WisDOT)
  • WAPA staff and member representatives took part in WisDOT’s Transportation Moves Wisconsin town hall meetings hosted by Secretary Mark Gottlieb. These sessions proved to be excellent opportunities to hear about the needs of transportation users in Wisconsin’s different regions.
  • WAPA also co-sponsored a seminar presented by technical experts from the National Center for Asphalt Technology to address the use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) in Wisconsin. Interest is high in our state, and we heard from NCAT that we’re helping lead the way nationally. Read more from our May 2014 news story.
  • We sponsored or attended (and often both) a number of other events in the state, supporting the efforts of groups like the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, and many others. We were particularly pleased to sponsor the national meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation’s Research Advisory Committee, held in Madison in July 2014.

In addition, we held several open house events, WAPA member lunch-and-learns, and one-on-one discussions with agencies and consultant companies alike addressing any of the wide range of issues related to asphalt. We welcome this role as the go-to resource in Wisconsin for all things asphalt. Our door is always open.

The industry’s relationship with Wisconsin DOT is as strong as ever. At WAPA’s 2014 Annual Conference, Dan Grasser, administrator of WisDOT’s Division of Transportation System Development, highlighted a number of cooperative efforts involving participation by government and industry. These include pilot and demonstration projects, research, and specifications development. The efforts are guided by technical committees whose membership includes WAPA and its members. Grasser’s presentation [PDF] has more details.

Environmental Leadership Award winning Monarch Paving Plant 87 in Eau Claire
In support of regional and local partnerships, Northeast Asphalt and WAPA conducted a Spring Regional Seminar in Appleton. The event afforded WAPA members the chance to present on regional issues and to answer questions from an audience of state, county, town and municipal representatives. We encourage other members to consider using similar regional seminars as a way to connect with public partners.

At the local level, WAPA’s Environmental Leadership Award Program continues to strengthen connections between industry and government. The 12 Environmental Leadership Award renewals [PDF] in 2014 granted unparalleled opportunities for Mathy Construction, Monarch Paving, Northeast Asphalt, Payne & Dolan, and Rock Road to interact with local government and civic leaders and demonstrate the many ways they have a positive impact on the community.

WAPA was a strong supporter of the “Vote Yes” campaign in Wisconsin than culminated in a vote in November to protect state revenues collected by transportation. Spearheaded by WTBA and TDA, the effort was critical to safeguard transportation funding in Wisconsin.

The “Vote Yes” victory was just the first step, though. We join many other Wisconsin trade and commerce organizations in the ongoing efforts of the Wisconsin Transportation Investment Coalition. With projected shortfalls at the state and national level, lawmakers need to act now to secure transportation funding. Through the coalition, participants like WAPA and our member companies are connecting with decision-makers to help them understand just how important transportation is to our state’s economy and our citizens’ quality of life.

APA's AsphaltFacts.com website
WAPA remains a strong supporter of the national organizations that drive asphalt: the National Asphalt Pavement Association and its sister organization, the Asphalt Pavement Alliance. NAPA and the APA continue to publish extremely valuable technical and marketing publications. The ones we think are of greatest interest in Wisconsin are posted in the Resources section of our website, and more can be found on NAPA’s and APA’s sites. Two excellent informational websites I’d like to point out are APA’s AsphaltFacts.com and DriveAsphalt.org (new in 2014).

I’m also actively involved on several NAPA committees and help make sure that Wisconsin’s voice is heard in national discussions. Deb, likewise, is involved in technical activities nationally; for example, she met with the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University and reviewed their latest research and implementation efforts as one of her first orders of business with WAPA.

We’re already off and running in 2015.

Deb attended the 2015 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting last week with an eye open for advances that will have an impact in Wisconsin, and I’ll be attending NAPA’s 2015 Annual Meeting next week (more to follow in a coming Executive Update). Plans are in the works for new and continued demonstrations, pilots and partnerships with Wisconsin DOT. Another round of asphalt spring training sessions with WisDOT are scheduled, and funding continues to demand our attention — and action — at the state and national level.

And in the meantime, we’re busy fielding calls and email requests from public and private entities looking for information and assistance on their most pressing questions.

We’re ready for another busy year and look forward to working with all of you to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us and make it another successful year.

That’s it for now. Thanks and stay in touch.

Brandon Strand
Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association