U.S. House Introduces Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act

The proposed legislation would require all federally funded bridge projects to use certified contractors for any corrosion control work and employ industry-recognized standards for corrosion mitigation and prevention.

The Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP), the world’s largest coatings and corrosion association, has announced its support for H.R. 8033. Officially titled the Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act, the bill was introduced in the summer of 2022 by U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3).

The proposed federal legislation requires corrosion planning and the use of qualified and trained professionals on all bridge construction, repair, and maintenance projects throughout the country.

“We thank Congressman Garamendi for introducing this important legislation,” says Sam Scaturro, chair of the AMPP Board of Directors. “H.R. 8033 is a decisive step toward ensuring that our bridges are protected from the harmful effects of corrosion. Corrosion negatively affects all bridges and infrastructure throughout the country, and it’s essential we actively address this issue.”

“Unfortunately, our industry has seen firsthand the costly and sometimes tragic consequences that occur when corrosion planning isn’t placed at the forefront,” Scaturro says.

Costs of Corrosion

Corrosion puts public safety at risk, harms the environment, and costs billions of dollars annually. According to a 2001 study from the Federal Highway Administration, corrosion directly costs the U.S. economy approximately 3.1% of gross domestic product (over $570 billion) annually.

By using currently available corrosion control practices, researchers estimate a savings between 15% and 35% could be realized—or between $85.5 and $199.5 billion. However, these numbers don’t include indirect costs such as lost productivity due to road closures, potential damage to the environment, or loss of life.

“Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Congress and the Biden Administration is making the largest federal investment to modernize our nation’s infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was established,” Garamendi says.

“My ‘Bridge Corrosion Prevention and Repair Act’ would require all federally funded bridge projects to use certified contractors for any corrosion control work and employ industry-recognized standards for corrosion mitigation and prevention,” he adds. “America’s corrosion professionals and union painters are ready, willing, and able to do the job, especially those who have completed federally registered apprenticeship programs.”

Objectives of the Bill

In a podcast conversation with AMPP, which can be listened to at www.materialsperformance.com/podcasts, Garamendi expanded on his personal support for the bill, as well as its primary objectives.

“You’ve got to prevent corrosion, and you’ve got to observe it,” Garamendi says. “The bill attempts to do that in two ways. First of all, there will be a proper engineering study of a structure. That it was properly observed, as to what weaknesses and what corrosion there might be there. I would say engineer is a broad word, here, that would cover men and women who are trained and certified to study the issue of corrosion.”

“Then, how do you deal with it? These would be the painters and other skills that address the issue of what corrosion there may be, and to take the proper steps to make sure that it does not continue, or that it never happens in the first place. That’s what the bill does, it sets a standard and requires that those standards be carried out by people that are certified and trained.”

Congressman John Garamendi.

Working Together

While Garamendi is a Democrat, he is hopeful that a bipartisan consensus on corrosion can be reached. He also believes in working with associations, such as AMPP—and unions, like the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades—in helping move the process forward.

“I’ll give you an example,” Garamendi says of the potential for a collaborative and bipartisan approach. “I had come across a problem in my current district in California, where the agricultural community could not get a container, or get a container on a ship.”

“It turns out that Dusty Johnson, the only representative from South Dakota [and a Republican], had a similar problem in South Dakota with his dairy industry and the soybean industry in that area,” Garamendi adds.

“We teamed up, and we put a piece of legislation [signed] by about 85% of the members of Congress four times through Congress, before we finally got the Senate to wake up. Ultimately, that became law. All that happened in 10 months of time. It was bipartisan. As we seek to move this issue forward, and we introduce the legislation, we will be seeking that bipartisan angle.”

How Members Can Help

In AMPP’s recent podcast interview, Garamendi says his interest in corrosion prevention dates back to a jobsite visit in 1992 to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, USA. Now, 30 years later, he wants to make further advances. While he is uncertain as to the path forward and its timing, considering that 2022 is an election year, Garamendi does see a role for AMPP and its members to be of assistance.

“It’s necessary to lobby,” he says. “Come up to the Capitol and talk to people on those relevant committees. Also, identify the key players and work the districts. All politics are local. Set up local relationships in the communities where you are, and get to know them.” Further resources regarding the logistics of doing that are available at www.ampp.org/about/government-relations, or by contacting Adam Christopher, AMPP’s Manager of Government Relations, at adam.christopher@ampp.org.

Finally, Garamendi advises using prominent examples of corrosion-induced failures—like the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, earlier this year—as a means of rallying public support. “You use those to highlight the issue,” he says.

Along those same lines, Garamendi recommends keeping tabs on the recently signed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—where many projects are currently in the process of being considered and awarded—to advocate for corrosion prevention plans being built into each contract.

“Reach out to the representatives and the senators in that area, and bring it to their attention,” Garamendi says. “If there’s going to be a multi-billion-dollar bridge [project], that’s all well and good, but who’s going to maintain it? If you don’t, it’s likely going to fall down in 20 years, you’re going to blow couple of billion dollars, and somebody’s likely to die. Again, all politics are local.”

AMPP’s Role

At an association level, AMPP’s mission is to advance materials performance to protect society, assets, and the environment. To achieve those goals, AMPP aims to help policymakers and industries advance policies that mitigate corrosion and lead to the implementation of practical corrosion mitigation policies. In that context, the association views H.R. 8033 as a positive development.

“AMPP supports measures that protect the environment, reduce overall costs for maintenance and repairs, and ensure the highest levels of public safety,” Scaturro concludes. “Similar language has passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support twice in the last two years. We look forward to working with Congress to make sure this bill becomes law.”

Further comments from Garamendi on infrastructure corrosion and the legislative process, including insight on how AMPP can also be of assistance when it comes to prioritizing corrosion control for U.S. military assets, are available below by listening to the podcast.

Sources: AMPP, www.ampp.org.; Materials Performance (MP) Podcasts, www.materialsperformance.com/podcasts; Congressman John Garamendi, garamendi.house.gov.

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