Executive Update: News and innovations at the 2014 WAPA conference

The asphalt pavement industry in Wisconsin is engaged and energized, and nowhere was that more evident than at WAPA’s 2014 conference held earlier this month in Madison.

Given the many exciting asphalt pavement innovations and the ever-evolving landscape for transportation funding, the conference provided an unmatched setting for sharing the latest updates in technologies, funding and policy.

I was particularly pleased to see so many people take advantage of the opportunity to learn from our all-star experts at the state and national level. WAPA members and their customers alike noted that attendance was high, and this year also saw a significant increase in conference sponsors and exhibitors.

What also struck me this year was a running theme that all stakeholders in Wisconsin—industry and owners, producers and contractors, asphalt and concrete—are joined with common purpose. If we don’t take steps to secure a strong future for roadway infrastructure in Wisconsin, then everyone is going to be in trouble. Presenters throughout the conference talked about advanced techniques and technologies and the needed funding commitments that will help turn this future into reality.

We can’t thank enough (but we can thank again!) everyone involved in this event: attendees, presenters, sponsors, and exhibitors—for making the conference a success. Conference presentations are online, and summaries follow.

We were extremely fortunate to have the leaders of two Wisconsin executive departments address conference attendees in the opening session.

  • Mark Gottlieb, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, has been instrumental in making our industry’s public-private partnership with WisDOT so successful. Indeed, most WisDOT projects this year included some form of pilot project or test section.
    Secretary Gottlieb reviewed the agency’s 2015-2017 funding request for transportation [PDF], noting that even without a long-term federal funding law in place, WisDOT has moved forward in proposing its vision for transportation.
    The funding request aims to support economic development and meet top priorities, from keeping major Interstate and bridge projects on schedule to increasing support for local facility improvements. Secretary Gottlieb said a key priority is establishing a sustainable funding base, and the proposal includes a number of revenue sources aimed to fairly tax and assess fees on users.
  • The recipient of Gottlieb’s budget was Mike Huebsch, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, whose office is charged with helping the governor develop and implement the state budget.
    At the WAPA conference, Secretary Huebsch explained how transportation fits in with other core state services (such as education, health and corrections) and the challenging balancing act that comes next for setting the budget given limited revenues and shifting priorities.
    He also stressed the need to keep educating lawmakers on the economic importance of the asphalt pavement industry. Turnover in the legislature has been high—upwards of three-quarters of those serving in 2015 were not in office in 2011. Secretary Huebsch gave a homework assignment to industry attendees at the conference to connect with legislators, introduce yourselves, and paint a picture for them on how our business impacts jobs and the economy.

Several state and national experts gave their perspective on funding and public policy—where we are, where we’re headed, and what Wisconsin stakeholders should be doing to ensure a robust transportation system.

Dan Grasser, WisDOT Division Administrator, provided a Wisconsin DOT Update [PDF]. Grasser focused on WisDOT/WAPA joint initiatives, including pilot programs (high recycle, thin overlays, cold in-place recycling), improved partnerships (paving inspection), research (longitudinal construction joints), and specifications development (cold weather paving). He also addressed partnering priorities, feedback from the recent construction season, WisDOT’s role in the budgeting process and WisDOT staffing.

Pat Goss, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, gave a presentation titled Elections and 2015-16 Legislative Session [PDF]. Highlights include passage of the Wisconsin constitutional amendment to protect transportation revenues for future spending, political shifts in the executive and legislative branches of government, and critical next steps for the Transportation Investment Coalition to ensure necessary levels of transportation funding in Wisconsin.

David Kopacz, FHWA Wisconsin Division Programs Manager, provided a Federal Highway Administration Update [PDF]. Kopacz highlighted federal innovation initiatives like Every Day Counts and the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2); discussed MAP-21 performance measurements; and outlined key considerations for the state’s quality assurance program.

Dan Fedderly, WCHA Executive Director, provided a Wisconsin County Highway Association Activities Update [PDF]. Fedderly reviewed the association’s efforts at the national level (2015 fly-in and other legislative efforts), ongoing discussions at the state level with lawmakers on a wide variety of topics critical to stakeholders, and a number of the WCHA’s outreach activities in Wisconsin.

Jay Hansen, NAPA Executive Vice President, gave an Update on the National Asphalt Pavement Association [PDF]. Hansen summarized several research efforts underway at NAPA, reviewed legislative activity and NAPA’s response, and detailed findings of NAPA’s market research and survey of DOTs and drivers. He highlighted new multimedia materials from NAPA that help tell the asphalt story. Hansen also outlined the federal and state funding uncertainties and the various paths forward in the current political climate.

Mary Robbins, Assistant Research Professor at the National Center for Asphalt Technology, gave a presentation titled NCAT Pavement Test Track at Auburn University: Research Update [PDF]. Robbins outlined the wide range of research completed and ongoing at NCAT and discussed the implementation process. NCAT’s efforts address M-E pavement design, surface and reflection cracking, porous friction courses, low cost/long life pavements, pavement preservation and other areas.

An afternoon was also devoted to Technical Breakout Sessions, which were offered for professional development hours. Attendees had the opportunity to attend as many as three sessions of their choosing.

  • WisDOT Pilot: High Recycle Mixes [PDF]
    Barry Paye, Wisconsin DOT
    This session provided an overview of the two high recycle pilot projects that were constructed in 2014. Discussions related to the specifications, test result comparison data, constructability concerns, lessons learned up to this point to impact future projects, and more.
  • Thinlay Asphalt for Pavement Preservation [PDF]
    Dale S. Decker
    This session provided an overview on thin asphalt overlays, a popular approach to pavement preservation for their ability to provide improved ride quality, reduce pavement distresses, maintain surface geometrics, reduce noise levels, reduce life‐cycle costs, and provide long‐lasting service.
  • PaveXpress: A Simplified Pavement Design Tool [PDF]
    Deb Schwerman, WAPA
    This session provided an overview of the free, web‐based simplified design tool from NAPA. PaveXpress creates technically sound pavement structural designs for flexible and rigid pavements based on industry standards (AASHTO 93, 98) and is designed for local agencies, architects, consultants, and engineering students.
  • Sustainable Asphalt Pavements [PDF]
    Mary Robbins, NCAT, and Angela Pakes‐Ahlman, UW‐Madison
    Sustainable development, which includes green construction practices, balances the needs of people, nature, and the economy. This session addressed green building design, construction, operation and how the asphalt pavement industry may be used to obtain or contribute to LEED credits.
  • Tack Coat Effect on Field Performance [PDF]
    Kevin Hardee, Road Science
    With WisDOT’s tack coat specifications requirements on the rise [PDF], understanding proper design and application is a must. This session outlined the benefits of tack coat and presented examples in the field demonstrating enhanced performance.
  • Ethics Training [PDF]
    Angela James and Leah Ziemba, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
    This session focused on the fundamental canons of professional conduct and other appropriate administrative rules or regulations. The discussion was designed to demonstrate a working knowledge of professional ethics and satisfy the requirement for “professional conduct and ethics.”

On behalf of WAPA (Deb Schwerman and myself, our president Kirt Haggard, our board of directors, and all members), let me offer one final thanks to everyone and wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season and new year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,

Brandon Strand
Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association