Representatives of six organizations from the rubber and asphalt industries met recently at the Washington headquarters of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) to discuss methods to promote the use of rubber-modified asphalt.
Besides the RMA, associations involved in the April 14 meeting included the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the Asphalt Institute, the National Asphalt Producers Association (NAPA) and the Rubber Pavements Association (RPA).
``We're trying to expand the market for rubberized asphalt,'' said Michael Blumenthal, RMA senior technical director. What the groups are trying to accomplish, he said, is to create a venue for all players in the industry-rubber and asphalt manufacturers, rubber and polymer recyclers, highway contractors, federal and state regulators and highway officials-to come together and create a dialogue outlining each other's concerns.
Ed Miller, executive director of the ACS Rubber Division and former head of the Asphalt Institute, stressed that the effort is still preliminary. But he added that he was greatly encouraged by the progress made at the April 14 meeting.
``At this point, we're trying to set up the right forums to educate people across the two industries to understand the benefits of rubberized asphalt,'' Mr. Miller said. This was the first time rubber and asphalt interests in the U.S. have come together to discuss the subject of rubberized asphalt, he added.
According to Mr. Miller, attendees formed two working groups. One, involving NAPA, ISRI, the RPA and the RMA, is designed to lobby Congress to add a provision in upcoming highway reauthorization legislation that would allocate funds for educational projects on rubberized asphalt.
The other, including all the participating groups except ISRI, will work toward arranging a technical colloquium on rubberized asphalt at the ACS Rubber Division meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., in spring 2004.
``In the long run, we want to promote rubberized asphalt,'' Mr. Miller said. ``But we also hope to build this (the colloquium) into an annual event.''
Mr. Blumenthal noted that persuading Congress to fund rubberized asphalt education may require some effort. Many legislators still remember the debacle of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, which required state highway officials to use an ever-increasing percentage of rubberized asphalt in federally funded highway projects. The provision met with outraged opposition from highway officials and conventional asphalt manufacturers and eventually was rescinded.
The impetus for the effort on asphalt rubber, Mr. Blumenthal added, began with talks between him and Mr. Miller nearly two years ago. Momentum gained when Mr. Blumenthal became a member of the Rubber Division's Recycled Rubber Topical Group, Mr. Miller said.
Participants in the meeting will have a teleconference sometime during the next couple of weeks to discuss a united stand on rubberized asphalt provisions in the highway bill, RPA Executive Director Doug Carlson added.