The role of concrete in the construction and rehabilitation of the nation's infrastructure is both critical and increasing.

The massive amount of infrastructure-related funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 represents an unprecedented opportunity for both the public and private construction markets. To help contractors successfully bid on projects and infrastructure managers identify and invest in long-lasting solutions, CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION and PUBLIC WORKS magazines, both published by Hanley Wood Business Media, have developed this supplement. The wide range of articles can help concrete contractors obtain government work, while also providing public works officials an insight into the benefits of specifying concrete for their infrastructure projects.

The term “infrastructure” as used in this supplement is defined as related to transportation, energy, and water management. This includes roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, water and wastewater systems, and power grids—the public works services and structures that support U.S. citizens.

In regard to infrastructure-related projects constructed and rehabilitated as part of ARRA, approximately $48 billion is specified for highway and transportation projects; $19 billion for water and environment construction; and $5 billion for power-related construction. A total of approximately $72 billion will be invested in the nation's crumbling infrastructure over the course of the next few years, according to FMI Corp., a provider of management consulting and investment banking for the construction industry.

The role of concrete in the construction and rehabilitation of the nation's infrastructure is both critical and increasing.

One common concrete application involves road construction, where concrete competes directly with the incumbent asphalt. Traditionally, asphalt reigns supreme with around 90% of road projects including some form of asphalt. Given the ARRA's emphasis on environmental sustainability, combined with the cost of petroleum-based materials such as asphalt, concrete quickly is becoming the solution of choice for infrastructure managers.

For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation recently sought bids for a road construction project from both concrete and asphalt contractors. Typically, the Ohio DOT would only seek a bid for either concrete or asphalt pavement—not both—in order to reduce the time and effort comparing and contrasting a number of variables. In the end, the Ohio DOT chose concrete over asphalt. The primary reason: the concrete contractor's bid came in $10 million under the bid placed by the asphalt contractor.

In a time when many contractors are being challenged by unstable residential and commercial construction markets, they are being forced to diversify their business to include infrastructure-related projects. The public construction boom that will result from ARRA gives contractors an immediate opportunity for stability. Although not every contractor may be capable of handling a massive road or bridge project, enough concrete-related work should trickle down so your business may benefit from the stimulus package.