Environmental Product Declarations seem to be popping up everywhere. Here’s what you need to know.
Environmental Product Declarations seem to be popping up everywhere. Here’s what you need to know.
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Welcome to a special environmental-themed issue of California Asphalt magazine, the official publication of the California Asphalt Pavement Association. This issue includes a deep dive on an important topic, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Whether you deny climate change or believe that Earth is in a state of crisis, there is no denying that environmental policies and popular opinion among our fellow Californians continue to drive regulation to be more stringent. The question is not whether changes being made are necessary, but how we will prepare and respond.
One of the Association’s primary roles is to inform its members of changes in the regulatory landscape so that they are best able to prepare for and respond to those changes. Previous environmental issues of this magazine focused on air toxics health risk assessment, environmental justice, on- and off-road engine requirements, stormwater regulations, and many other issues relevant to members. These topics were identified by members and considered during our bi-monthly Environmental Committee meetings. The meetings are accessible remotely and typically occur on a Friday morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Participation in the Committee is open to all members and is critical to our collective understanding of emerging environmental issues. When we pool our knowledge and expertise, we are certain to attain better outcomes on behalf of our industry. It is my hope that each member will consider attending future Environmental Committee meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Please contact CalAPA by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be placed on the distribution list for meeting invitations and other environment-related information.
One of the strategic goals of the association is effective engagement with elected officials, agency personnel and regulators on behalf of the asphalt pavement industry. To be effective in meeting that goal requires us to be knowledgeable, credible and helpful. Being helpful involves educating external constituent groups about our industry, our desire to be responsible, and the tangible steps we are taking to align our operations to be compatible with the communities in which we live and work. We have fact sheets and other information related to this topic on the public-facing CalAPA website.
As for the implementation of EPDs, the path forward is unclear and there are some obstacles that will need to be addressed before EPDs will serve the intended function. For instance, the Caltrans EPD requires disclosure of emissions from “cradle-to-gate,” ignoring transportation-related emissions between the manufacturing facility and project location. In addition, it is unclear how EPDs will be used. Will EPDs be used to preclude some bidders from winning even though they may have the lowest cost and/or lowest impact when post-gate transportation emissions are considered? Will there be a dollar amount assigned to EPD-reported emissions such that both cost and environmental impact are considered as one line item? There are many questions to be answered and proposed legislation this session on which the Association has commented which seeks to expedite the requiring of EPDs.
I hope that you will find the information in this issue compelling and useful. Please do bring your experience and knowledge to the Environmental Committee meetings. It will assist us all in identifying and understanding the environmental issues of the day as well as identifying ones that are on the horizon. I believe that you will benefit from attending those meetings as well.Scott Cohen Principal Engineer Sespe Consulting, Inc. Co-Chair, CalAPA Environmental Committee
The ABCs of EPDs Environmental Product Declarations enter the mainstream
The ABCs of getting started with EPDs
CalAPA engages Legislature, environmentalists on EPD bill
Ready or not, here comes Artificial Intelligence
AI offers its take on the future of the asphalt pavement industry
Regulation Round Up: A Summary of the Latest CARB Regulations
Assemblyman tours Joint Training & Certification Program asphalt class at CSULB
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EPDs are having a moment.
The informational reports on the environmental impact of various materials emerged on to the scene in the 2010s, and gained momentum in recent years as project owners seek to quantify the greenhouse gas emission implications of construction activities, and the asphalt industry responded. Today there is no disputing that Environmental Product Declarations are here to stay, having been embedded in local, state and federal legislation, seemingly every climate-related discussion, technical paper and seminar. Still, the state of EPDs is evolving, as is the asphalt industry’s understanding of what implications they will have for the future.
Put another way, as we wrote in this publication in 2020: “Green may be the most popular color in the color wheel these days, but moving environmental-awareness and sustainability beyond a marketing slogan to a robust and trusted system for procurement is proving to be a daunting challenge, even for a green-centric state like California. Take EPDs, for example. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) appeared to be a logical first step for project owners to better understand the environmental impacts of the construction materials used in a project. But raising awareness about EPDs has been a challenge from Day 1. So has agreeing on what should go into an EPD, and
ensuring that the information is accurate and comparable. Adding to the challenges, gathering and quantifying the data needed to produce the underlying environmental Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) and Product Category Rules (PCR) is an excruciatingly slow and time-consuming (expensive) process, which has further slowed the ability of the EPD concept to catch on. Still, the forward progress is unmistakable.”
Those words are as true today as they were in 2020, and then some. Since that writing, EPD pilot projects have been rolled out by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), EPD legislation has been introduced in the California Legislature (see sidebar), and local agencies and private owners have also started requesting EPDs. Across the nation, aggressive EPD legislation has been introduced in several states, notably Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota, adding additional urgency to the issue.
But all of these efforts paled in comparison to the big earthquake –the inclusion of EPDs in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which put hundreds of millions of dollars behind the effort and turbocharged the Federal Highway Administration’s “Every Day Counts” initiative to promote innovative and sustainable practices in the delivery of transportation improvements. EPDs, the FHWA declared, are “a simple yet robust environmental
reporting tool” that can “demystify the environmental impacts of construction materials.”
Meanwhile, in 2022, the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), a CalAPA partner, rolled out a comprehensive “The Road Forward” net-zero climate initiative with EPDs squarely in the center. Indeed, EPDs are having a moment. And for those not already on the EPD train, there is risk of being left behind. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to that have come on line to assist (see “Getting Started” sidebar).
“In some of the more progressive states, we see a lot of momentum towards using EPDs to manage embodied carbon. But we’re also seeing interest across the typical political boundaries that you might expect. It’s encouraging,” said Joseph Shacat, NAPA’s Director of Sustainable Pavements. “The landscape is evolving rapidly, with data gaps being filled by upstream suppliers, and better appreciation for regional variability.”
In 2020, Dr. John Harvey, Ph.D., P.E., Director of the University of California Pavement Research Center, warned in this publication that EPDs were “a recipe for chaos and bad decisions and cheating.” In presentations since then he has urged a go-slow approach whereby agencies request EPDs, evaluate them and set regional goals based on the information.
Early iterations of procurement policy proposals based on EPDs
have been based on national or international baselines, which have proven to be disconnected to what is happening locally. He continues to be an advocate for industry producing EPDs and agencies requiring them as a part of the deliberate process of bringing continually improving information about environmental impacts into decision-making, including procurement, and also use of EPDs as input to life cycle assessment used in decision-making in other stages of project delivery, including design and asset management.
Contacted again for this article, Harvey said with regard to the potential for “chaos, bad decisions and cheating” he warned about in 2020 he sees good progress on many of the issues identified, particularly the work of industry, with “a great deal of leadership and innovation in EPD program operation from the National Asphalt Pavement Association, as well as the Federal Highway Administration Sustainable Pavement Task Group, other states such as Colorado, and other industries.”
Many of the ideas that have been developed over the past few years for improving use of EPDs in California and nationally, Harvey noted, are advocated in a white paper on “Recommendations for Use of EPDs” by Harvey and Ali Butt, published in April 2023 by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation at UC Davis. (see reference area at the end of this article). In the summary of the report the authors note, “Life cycle thinking can be used at various
stages in the life cycle of a product or system to identify opportunities to improve the sustainability performance of products and pavements or to inform and guide decision-makers setting priorities for change. Life cycle thinking works best when quantitative analysis is performed using a set of sustainability metrics identified as important at the start of the process and allows decisionmakers to look at improvement options while being informed about potential trade-offs and unintended consequences, either for different aspects of sustainability or between different life cycles.”
In an earlier technical brief by the UCPRC, published in 2021, it recommended, “Caltrans should follow and encourage progress in PCR (Product Category Rule) development work being done by program operators, FHWA (Federal Highway Administration), and other state DOTs to develop a standardized set of indicator names and reporting units that is harmonized across all PCRs and a standardized set of defined units within PCRs for transportation infrastructure construction materials in the United States. Wherever important necessary differences exist between industries, separate PCR subsections will need to be developed that are specific to a particular construction material. The FHWA is working in this direction, toward a standardized data architecture for pavement LCA data.”
Long term, many familiar with the EPD concept see California public agencies continuing to ask for EPDs, and eventually require them for projects. Ultimately, these people say, project owners may establish baselines for projects from data gleaned from EPDs, and use that to determine winning bidders in a low-bid environment, which is most worrisome to the industry given the nascent state of EPD science and application. That concern was shared by the UCPRC’s Harvey and others.
The asphalt pavement industry has instead advocated for an incentive-disincentive approach, which has proven to be successful in spurring innovation and investment in other aspects of construction by contractors and suppliers always highly motivated to go after incentives.
The emergence of EPDs has coincided with a greater public awareness of the impact to the environment from many human activities. EPDs got their start in pavements in the Netherlands, and received a boost in the United States when they were included in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 rating system, which included a materials and resources credit that rewards product teams for using products that are accompanied by ISO 14044-compliant LCAs or ISO 14025-compliant EPDs. The newestRight: Presenters at a CalAPA-sponsored educational “webinar” on the subject of Environmental Product Declarations broadcast out of the CalAPA offices in West Sacramento. The Jan. 8, 2019 webinar featured presenters from NAPA, Caltrans and the University of California Pavement Research Center.
version of the rating system, LEED v4.1, goes a step further by rewarding projects that select materials which have been “optimized” based on the data provided in EPDs, demonstrating a willingness to utilize a tool that project teams may not yet fully understand. On the federal level, the Energy Independence and Security Act requires the U.S. General Services Administration to evaluate and recommend green building certification systems to assess progress made toward agencies’ missions and goals. The Federal Highway Administration’s EPD information web page for pavements acknowledged that “specifics on how to interpret and apply the general rules (of EPDs) have proven to be varying from one application to another.”
In California, state engineering behemoth Caltrans created a sustainability program and communicated its desire to incorporate environmental Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) and possibly EPDs in its decision-making. Some local agencies have also signaled their desire to incorporate EPDs in the procurement process, with Marin County emerging as one of the early adapters.
EPDs gained additional urgency in 2017 when a bill was introduced in the California Legislature, AB262, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, that would require the use of EPDs in the state procurement process.
After CalAPA expressed concern that the bill was too far ahead of the industry’s ability to produce EPDs, the bill was modified and all references to asphalt were deleted. The bill eventually passed the Legislature and was signed into law on Oct. 15, 2017 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. Although references to asphalt were removed from the bill, Caltrans signaled its intention
to eventually seek EPDs for construction materials.
EPDs re-emerged in the Legislature in February of 2023 in the form of Assembly Bill 1250, authored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Burbank, chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. Once again, CalAPA engaged the author and bill sponsors, the Natural Resources Defense Council, on the bill (see sidebar). The bill author and sponsors acknowledged the asphalt industry’s progress in the area, but CalAPA ended up being the lone association taking an “oppose unless amended” position on the bill in the Senate, after consulting its national partners, due to vague bill language and the potential for unintended consequences. The final disposition of the bill was not determined at the writing of this article.
Jeremy Peterson-Self, Office Chief, Materials Management and Independent Assurance, Materials Engineering & Testing Services for Caltrans, says the federal government and the state are aligning priorities and initiatives in the climate space, and the pace of change is accelerating.
“The FHWA is being fairly proactive in getting some programs out there that we can align with and use data across the nation to make good decisions on how we apply this,” Peterson-Self said of the EPD-related initiatives. “The goal is to take a practical approach to the number and use the data to make data-driven decisions.”
Recently Caltrans sent out a survey to asphalt mix producers related to plants, locations and knowledge and use of EPDs. Peterson-Self said the department is still analyzing the results of the survey to inform its thinking on the EPD space.
In the near term, Caltrans is developing guidance on how the construction industry can access federal grant monies to help offset the costs associated with
developing EPDs. Peterson-Self expects that guidance to be released later this year. Those grant funds are an outgrowth of the federal legislation that created programs to provide grants and technical assistance to support the development of EPDs.
The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), a CalAPA partner, has been developing an EPD program since 2013, which culminated with the “Emerald Eco-Label” software tool, which was designed to make it easy for asphalt producers to create EPDs.
EPDs build upon an environmental life cycle assessment and seek to capture and quantify information on the impacts to the environment from materials that are used in construction, and present them in a manner that is standardized and easy to understand by project owners and the public. EPDs are meant to represent the impact of raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, emissions to air, soil and water, and waste-generation, during the “cradle to gate” stages of the product’s life cycle.
Developing an EPD can be a daunting, complex and expensive proposition, which is greatly simplified and made more cost-effective with NAPA’s Emerald Eco-Label tool. For companies seeking to produce an EPD, NAPA suggests assigning a subjectmatter expert within a given company, and then have them study the various educational materials and quizzes available on the NAPA website devoted to the topic. NAPA webinars to introduce the concept, which are free to CalAPA members, are advertised periodically on the NAPA website and in the CalAPA newsletter.
After some familiarity with EPDs is established, NAPA then suggests the company move on to [ Continued on page 12 ]
understanding the process of utilizing the NAPA “Emerald Eco-Label” tool – which is a feebased, web-based product. The company subject-matter expert will need to work with others to oversee the gathering of data that will be input into the tool, such as plant energy, mix-design component sources, warm-mix asphalt technologies, haul distances from suppliers, use of recycled materials, etc. Often times a company’s environmental expert spearheads the project, but there is also heavy involvement with an asphalt producer’s Quality Control, plant operations, and accounting personnel. EPDs are specific to each plant, so data gathered must be site-specific. NAPA has developed a spreadsheet to aid in the data-gathering process. More information on this topic is available at the NAPA on-line store.
Significantly, NAPA has placed a heavy emphasis on education and making the tool easily accessible. For example, companies can log into the software, gather their data inputs, and even start entering some of the data, but won’t be charged until they are ready to develop and publish an EPD. There has also been added additional functionality, including allowing a plant owner to run various scenarios to see the GHG impact of, say, investments in newer equipment or energy solutions for the plant.
“We have to be responsive to what our customers are requesting, but at the same time there are lots of opportunities for mix producers to use EPDs to advance their businesses,” NAPA’s Shacat says.
That’s where a new feature added to the NAPA Emerald Eco-Label EPD tool, known as “the Optimizer,” comes into play.
“The Optimizer, which is included in the EPD software, gives users a sandbox to understand how they can save money and reduce
emissions at their asphalt plants,” Shacat said. Running various scenarios can be a real eye-opener for plant operators, and can help drive the discussion about how various changes to operations or equipment upgrades can contribute to those numbers.
“The value proposition of the Optimizer,” Shacat says, “is that if you make one change in your plant to improve operational efficiency, it will more than pay for all of your costs associated with developing EPDs.”
At one level, EPDs are a paperwork exercise, and some agencies are approaching them with a “check the box” mentality. However, as mix producers create EPDs, and then start examining how to reduce GHG emissions, it can lead to uncomfortable discussions with project owners about antiquated specifications that are a barrier to further GHG reductions, such as restrictions on the use of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) or revisiting the use of hydrated lime in some mixes. Elevating that knowledge is at the heart of the industry-agency discussions about what EPDs are, and could be.
As part of the outreach and educational effort, CalAPA co-sponsored a 90-minute informational webinar in 2019 featuring NAPA representatives along with local subject-matter experts from industry, Caltrans and University of California Pavement Research Center. A recording of the webinar and presentations were later uploaded to the web for ease of access (a link to the recording is included at the end of this article). The association continues to distribute updated information on EPDs on its website and in its weekly newsletter, as well as in presentations at CalAPA educational conferences and other forums. Additional educational outreaches are in the planning stages.
Companies participating in the Emerald Eco-Label program may be asked by NAPA to verify the data used in the company’s EPD, and random audits may be conducted to ensure that users are correctly inputting the data, all in the interest of ensuring the final EPD produced is robust. Since EPDs are relatively new, and the “rules of the road” have only recently been developed, it is in the best interests of the industry to ensure that published EPDs are accurate and comparable.
One major issue that has emerged is the robustness of the Product Category Rules that inform the EPD, particularly as they relate to asphalt binder. A representative of the Asphalt Institute, Regional Engineer Bob Humer, reported at the July CalAPA Board of Directors meeting that the Asphalt Institute is spearheading nationwide research to further refine the Product Category Rules for liquid asphalt binder, a key ingredient in Hot Mix Asphalt. The Asphalt Institute has also recently hired a sustainability engineer to help lead the effort. Pete Grass, president of the Asphalt Institute, sat down for an exclusive Q&A in this publication where he discussed EPDs, saying, “Last summer, we put together an Environmental Product Declaration task force to build the first EPD for binder. We will look at our LifeCycle Assessment (LCA) to see what modifications need to be made to it, if any, to help to deliver on the sustainability equation as required by some of our states. California is in that basket, but it is also at the federal level. We have to identify sustainable solutions that work for everybody.”
On Aug. 7, Grass provided an update on the EPD issue for a meeting of executives of the State Asphalt Pavement Associations, Inc. held in Park City, Utah attended by CalAPA representatives. He said progress is well underway in updating the Institute’s Product
When the Caltrans EPD effort got underway, one of the initial goals was to identify 20 potential pilot projects and include the production of an EPD in the bid as a separate bid item in 2019. Ultimately seven projects were selected and included in bids, but not until the 2020 fiscal year. A major hindrance to the identification of more projects, Caltrans officials said at the time, was the lack of understanding among Caltrans personnel and contractors about what EPDs are, and the capability to produce them. There were also wide variations in the prices contractors affixed to the EPD bid item, ranging from $500 to $5,000, which generally does not include the cost of staff time in developing an EPD. At the outset, the Department also emphasized the importance of high-quality EPDs.
Those interviewed for this story share a common belief that EPDs are here to stay, and that companies and agencies would be well-served to understand them better and how to use them properly as part of an overall strategy of moving toward a more sustainable construction program.
EPDs may indeed be having a moment today, but there’s little doubt they will be a fixture in how asphalt plants are viewed by project owners as well as the communities in which they operate. And so, FYI, producing EPDs are
more complex than learning your ABCs, but they don’t require a PhD and can be created PDQ. Time to get on it ASAP. CA
Russell W. Snyder, CAE, is executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association. Joseph Shacat, NAPA’s Director of Sustainable Pavements, contributed to this article.
FACT SHEET: Environmental Product Declarations (2022) California Asphalt, Journal of the California Asphalt Pavement Association, 2022 Environmental Issue, pp 18-20.
Harvey, J. T, & Butt, A. A. (2023). Recommended Approach for Use of Cradle-to-Gate Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in Procurement of Civil Infrastructure Materials. UC Davis: National Center for Sustainable Transportation.
http://dx.doi.org/10.7922/G2W66J3P Retrieved from: https://escholarship. org/uc/item/3fn4n3q6
Butt, A.A. & Harvey, J.T.(2021) Lessons Learned from Caltrans Pilot Program for Implementation of EPDs. Technical Memorandum, University of California Pavement Research Center TM-2021-01 September 2021.https://escholarship. org/uc/item/1qh0c638
Snyder, R. (2020) EPDs slowly gaining acceptance for road work, but challenges remain. California Asphalt, Journal of the California Asphalt Pavement Association, Environmental Issue. pp 12-17.
A recording of the CalAPA-NAPA “Webinar” held on Jan. 8, 2019 on the subject of Environmental Product Declarations in California can be accessed here:
Willis, R.J. (2017) NAPA Launches Emerald Eco-Label Tool. Asphalt Pavement, Published by the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Vol. 22, Issue 3, May-June 2017, pp 22.
Dylla, H. (2016) An Update of the NAPA EPD Program. Asphalt Pavement, Published by the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Vol. 21, Issue 1, Jan-Feb. 2016, pp 24-27.
Santero, N., Gadonniex, H., Wong, S. (2014) Defining Environmental Impact: The What, How and Why of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). California Asphalt, Journal of the California Asphalt Pavement Association, Vol. 18, Issue 4, July 2014, pp. 12-14.
Information on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v.4 international standard for the design, construction and operation of structures can be found here: https://www.usgbc.org/leed/v4
Federal Highway Administration
“Environmental Product Declarations And Product Category Rules” informational page. Updated May 14, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2023: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/ sustainability/articles/environmental.cfmRight: John Harvey, Ph.D., P.E., Director of the University of California Pavement Research Center, presents during the CalAPA Fall Asphalt Pavement Conference Oct. 26, 2022 in Sacramento. Harvey says his early warnings about EPDs have been largely heeded.
Editor’s Note: The National Asphalt Pavement Association, which has created an EPD software tool known as the “Emerald Eco-Label,” offers up the following recommendations for asphalt producers seeking to embark on their EPD journey:
A. Assign a Primary Contact for your company who is responsible for leading the EPD development effort.
B. Have the Primary Contact visit the web-based Emerald Eco-Label software at https://asphaltepd.org and create a user profile. Users will connect using their NAPA website login credentials. NAPA membership is not required.
C. Have the Primary Contact watch two, 90-minute training webinars and pass the associated quizzes.
D. Compile the data needed using the Data Gathering Spreadsheet provided by NAPA at https://www. asphaltpavement.org/uploads/ documents/EPD_Program/ EPD_Data_Gathering_rev3.xlsx This spreadsheet will streamline the data entry process by organizing all of the information to create an EPD in one place.
E. Log in to the Emerald Eco-Label website to create your Organization(s) and Plant(s) and purchase access for your plants. For companies with
multiple subsidiaries, you can create an Organization for each subsidiary. Pricing is provided at https://www.asphaltpavement. org/programs/napa-programs/ emerald-eco-label/registrationprocess.
Most companies can go through the entire process from start to finish within a few weeks, or sometimes longer depending on how accessible the plant’s operational records are.
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The bill, AB1250, by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Burbank, was vaguely worded and didn’t even mention asphalt when it was introduced in February. However, as it flew under the legislative radar it was amended to not only add asphalt but also a number of provisions deemed problematic by asphalt industry experts.
By the time the bill passed the Assembly and was being considered by the state Senate, CalAPA’s verbal concerns to the author developed into a firm “oppose unless amended” position. CalAPA was the only trade
association on record in opposition to the bill.
CalAPA’s official position letter, dated July 5 and quoted in the official Senate Transportation Committee staff report, stated, “ As currently written, the bill makes assumptions lacking academic and practical rigor, has the potential to disrupt the already fragile transportation construction materials supply chain in California, and will likely sow chaos and confusion, and a host of unintended consequences, while accomplishing none of the climatechange and community protection goals it purports to advance."
CalAPA came to its position after consulting member companies and national partners, including the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Asphalt Institute, and academia. The sponsor of the bill is the Natural Resources Defense Council. CalAPA representatives met with the author's staff and representatives of the NRDC to voice the association's concerns prior to submitting its position letter.
The wording of the bill that drew CalAPA’s opposition requires Caltrans to require bidders to submit Environmental Product
Declarations and to develop a model performance-based bid specification that includes a global warming potential benchmarks. CalAPA is already working with Caltrans on these initiatives, and the association argued that putting the requirement in law, with a deadline of next year, with benchmarks that are still amorphous, was unrealistic. The committee staff report acknowledged as much, saying "the author and committee may wish to amend the bill to delay implementation."
The CalAPA opposition letter, in addition to pointing out numerous technical flaws in the bill, took the author and sponsors to task for unfairly disparaging Caltrans and industry representatives currently working on EPDs and other climate-focused initiatives that touch every corner of the asphalt pavement industry. The overall net-zero carbon initiative for the asphalt industry unveiled last year by NAPA, known as "The Road Forward," brings together several ambitious initiatives, including deployment of EPDs,
with a target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions for the asphalt industry by 2035. CalAPA has been working with Caltrans and other stakeholders on EPD pilot projects and ramping up deployment statewide.
In the CalAPA position letter it was stated, "We question the usefulness of the declarations made in the beginning of the Legislation, including Section 1, subsection (c) that the department 'needs to establish public trust.' It is our experience that the California Department of Transportation has earned the public’s trust in over a century of dedicated service to California, and continues to do so, and this needless slur has no place in this legislation."
Although the bill ultimately cleared the Senate Transportation Committee July 11 on a party-line 12-4 vote, the bill’s author acknowledged the CalAPA opposition during the televised hearing and pledged to work with the association on amendments.
"I'd like to acknowledge a few points made by the opposition and to thank those in the industry who
worked with us to improve the bill," Friedman said during the hearing. She characterized the discussions with the asphalt industry as "very productive" and added, "I acknowledge that we're not there yet" but pledged to "continue to work on the remaining issues."
CalAPA's Capitol lobbyist, Jeff Sievers, testified on behalf of the association on the bill during the committee hearing. "We don't have an objection to the concept, it's more how do we get there," Sievers testified.
The bill still faced scrutiny by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which examines all bills that bring with them added cost to government. At this stage of the bill’s journey CalAPA secured a tentative agreement with the bill sponsors to drop asphalt from the bill entirely in favor of working together on a possible more tightly worded bill in the future. CALeft: Members of the CalAPA delegation visit the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 7-8. Ongoing engagement with legislators helps lay the foundation for effective advocacy on specific bills like AB1250 on EPDs. Pictured, from left: Steve Ward, Pavement Recycling Systems; Jordan Reed, George Reed Co.; Jeff Benedict, Valero; Scott Metcalf, Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions; Gary Houston, Valero; and Jeff Sievers with Carpenter Garcia Sievers, CalAPA’s Capitol advocate.
Artificial Intelligence did not write this story.
History is replete with examples of technology bursting on the scene, followed by awe-struck humans trying to fully comprehend its wondrous (or terrifying) implications for our world. But first let’s hear from some popular voices who tried to warn us.
“We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralyzed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it.” -- E.M. Forster from the short story “The Machine Stops,” first published in 1909.
“Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer, recalling in a 1965 interview his reaction to the first test of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1945.
“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.” David Bowman (Kier Dullea) talking to a homicidal computer from the 1968 Stanley Kurbrick movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“Decided our fate in a microsecond. Extermination.” Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), describing a future “self-aware” computer Skynet in the 1984 movie “The Terminator.”
“Never send a human to do a machine’s job.” Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) i n the 1999 movie “The Matrix.”
Now that I have your attention, you’re probably wondering what does all this have to do with the
asphalt industry? Plenty, actually. Ever since bitumen was mixed with rock to make asphalt roads, new equipment, new techniques, new technology, has shaped how the industry goes about its business. In recent years, computers, and software, have highly automated many processes of our companies, from mix designs to payroll, testing pavement smoothness to issuing bills for loads of asphalt.
Now comes the much-hyped Artificial Intelligence, machines with vast processing power that can analyze incomprehensible amounts of information swirling around us and provide lucid answers to questions in seconds. What could all this computing power mean for our industry? The thought of our computerized rollers and loaders turning against us certainly can send shivers down anyone’s spine. But once the fear
and confusion clears up, what practical applications does this technology have in store for us? After all, the asphalt industry is nothing if not practical.
The intersection between accessing high-quality information and insight and our association is undeniable. After all, the California Asphalt Pavement Association, and our partners at the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Asphalt Institute, other state asphalt associations and others have developed a reputation over many decades as the go-to source of credible information. More on that in a moment. But first we flagged this issue back in January when one of the first Artificial Intelligence platforms, ChatGPT, was still in the beta phase. As we reported in the Jan. 23 issue of our weekly Asphalt Insider newsletter:
In the world of asphalt, mention AI and it is likely that it will be regarded as a reference to the Asphalt Institute, the venerable, century-old organization that represents oil refiners, liquid asphalt suppliers and related companies. AI is also an important strategic partner of CalAPA, and AI Senior Regional Engineer Bob Humer is a familiar face at CalAPA events and anywhere else where insight about asphalt is needed and valued.
But in a broader sense, of course, AI has come to be known as “Artificial Intelligence.” As you’re reading this, AI is learning more and more about our world, how to mimic us, and developing new and fascinating (or terrifying) ways
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of doing things humans have traditionally done. The social, cultural, economic and practical implications of what that will mean for our world is barely comprehended by us mere mortals.
While AI might not be ready to engineer a road yet, or create an asphalt mix design, it clearly is developing some expertise on the subject. Just for fun, we went on one of the AI beta sites (ChatGPT) and entered the phrase “top reasons to choose asphalt for a paving project.” What follows, word for word, is the response we received from AI:
”1. Durability: Asphalt is highly durable and can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance.
2. Cost-Effective: Asphalt is the most cost-effective option for paving projects due to its affordability and low installation costs.
3. Low Maintenance: Asphalt is relatively low-maintenance, requiring only occasional sealcoating and crackfilling.
4. Weather Resistance: Asphalt is highly resistant to extreme weather conditions, making it ideal for areas that experience heavy rain, snow, or hail.
5. Versatility: Asphalt can be used for paving projects of all sizes, from driveways to highways.
6. Eco-Friendly: Asphalt is a sustainable and recyclable material, making it an environmentally friendly choice for paving projects.
7. Quick Installation: Asphalt is fast and easy to install, with most projects taking only a few days to complete.”
We must say, that’s a pretty impressive list. Sure, we could quibble with a few things. On the durability point, for example, regular readers of this publication know that certain long-life asphalt pavement designs have been shown to last 40 years and longer with minimal maintenance. And there are no shortage of opinions on which maintenance treatments are called for in various situations. But still, this is a reasonable
representation of our product. We’re curious, however, about why AI picked seven items, rather than three or 12 or 20, and why it put them in that particular ranked order. And what about other key attributes of asphalt important to humans, like smoothness, safety and noise-reduction? We suppose those are questions for another day and possibly a future iteration of AI (Are you listening Skynet?) In the meantime, we'll end this report with a famous movie line former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger often used when ending a speech: “I’ll be back.” Well, we as predicted, we were back, with another report in our July 24 Asphalt Insider newsletter about the NAPA roll-out of its own A.I.-based tool, “Hey NAPA.” Excerpts from our report is here:
The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), a CalAPA partner, unveiled a handy new tool this month to access credible information about asphalt pavements utilizing Artificial Intelligence technology. The tool is free and publicly available.
Left: CalAPA was present for a Dec. 6, 2010 speech by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who earned movie fame as a homicidal cyborg in the 1984 movie “The Terminator.” Schwarzenegger liked to end his speeches with a famous line from the move, “I’ll be back.” In a recent event earlier this year in Los Angeles he said A.I. has “become a reality.”
The media has been saturated in recent months with breathless coverage of how Artificial Intelligence technology will change our world, including tales of AI passing the Bar Exam to AI bots "hallucinating" and returning inaccurate or downright bizarre answers. What sets the NAPA tool apart is that it draws from a highly controlled pool of credible information that is curated by subject-matter experts. This information is presented in a user-friendly manner that is easily accessible by anyone. Significantly, the AI bot includes citations to original source material so users can have confidence on the information presented and access additional information if needed.
The tool, a collaboration between NAPA and XBE, a leading software company, was unveiled earlier this month at the NAPA Mid-year meeting in Kansas City.
"Our partnership with XBE is a testament to our shared commitment to provide NAPA members with superior resources and tools. We're excited to see
the positive impact Hay NAPA will have on our members and the industry as a whole," said NAPA Director of Engineering & Technical Support Brett Williams in an official announcement.
XBE created and will maintain the search engine, and NAPA will provide the necessary publications and data and ensure the search engine remains current and produces relevant answers. The tool is publicly available to anyone via NAPA's public website.
Since the unveiling reported above, NAPA says they have received favorable reviews about the new tool. In other words, embracing technology and figuring out a way to make it work for you is the strategy adopted by NAPA, and also by Utah Asphalt Pavement Association executive director Reed Ryan (see sidebar).
It’s clear that we haven’t heard the last of the impact on Artificial Intelligence in the asphalt industry, and there definitely is no shortage of opinions about what it means for our world. Is it simply a search engine on steroids? Or, in the words of theoretical physicist Michio Kakuis A.I. just a giant “tape recorder” feeding our knowledge back to us? Will it be capable of creating new knowledge, new insights, that could start replacing the humans that created it? And we haven’t even ventured into the moral and ethical dilemmas presented by A.I., including the sometimes warped version of reality it can reflect back to us.
It remains to be seen, then, if A.I. will continue to be our useful tool, making us smarter and more efficient in our jobs, or will it make us, as E.M. Forster warned more than a century ago, dumber, lazier and ultimately compelled to worship it. The answer to that question will not be provided here. But the answer is out there. The real question is, do we want to know? CA
Snyder, R. “Don’t take our word for it. Just Ask A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)” (2023) California Asphalt Insider newsletter, Jan. 23, 2023.
“NAPA Partners with XBE to launch AI-powered ‘Hey NAPA’ service for members.” (2023) National Asphalt
Pavement Association press release issued July 13, 2023. Accessed on-line Aug. 15, 2023.
Snyder, R. “Artificial Intelligence comes to the asphalt industry in the form of handy tool to access credible information” (2023) California Asphalt Insider newsletter, July 24, 2023.Russell W. Snyder, CAE, is executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association (CalAPA)
Editor’s Note: Reed Ryan, executive director of the Utah Asphalt Pavement Association, was swamped with final preparations for hosting the annual meeting of the State Asphalt Pavement Associations, Inc., leaders in Park City, Utah, but as outgoing chairman of the organization he wanted to offer some brief inspirational remarks to his colleagues. He turned to Artificial Intelligence to help. What follows is his exchange with the ChatGPT A.I. interface. He delivered the remarks on Aug. 8, credited A.I. technology. He said the entire process of developing the final speech took just a few minutes whereas writing the speech himself could have taken much longer. Note how the speech changes slightly based on his prompts.
REED RYAN: I have a meeting this week with a bunch of executives in the asphalt industry from across the country. Could you help me provide a few thoughts that will inspire them about the future of the asphalt industry?
CHATGPT: Absolutely! Here are a few thoughts to inspire the executives in the asphalt industry about its future: 1. Embracing Sustainable Practices: Highlight the growing importance of sustainability in the industry and how adopting eco-friendly technologies and practices can lead to a more environmentally conscious and responsible asphalt sector.
2. Advancements in Materials: Discuss the potential of new materials and technologies, such as warm-mix asphalt and recycled materials, to improve the durability and performance of
asphalt, leading to longer-lasting and cost-effective infrastructure.
3. Smart Infrastructure Integration: Share insights on how integrating smart technologies and data analytics into asphalt projects can enhance maintenance, optimize traffic flow, and improve overall efficiency. 4. Infrastructure Resilience: Address the significance of building resilient asphalt infrastructure to withstand climate change-related challenges, extreme weather events, and heavy traffic loads. 5. Collaboration and Innovation: Encourage collaboration among industry stakeholders and innovation through research and development, fostering an environment that promotes continuous improvement and new breakthroughs in the asphalt sector. 6. The Future of Mobility: Discuss how the asphalt industry can adapt to support emerging trends in transportation, such as electric and autonomous vehicles, and what opportunities
this presents for growth and adaptation. 7. Investing in Workforce Development: Stress the importance of investing in training and developing the workforce to ensure a skilled labor force that can keep up with the industry’s evolving needs and technologies. Remember to tailor these thoughts to suit the specific challenges and opportunities facing the executives and the asphalt industry as a whole. Best of luck with your meeting!
REED RYAN: These are some great points. Could you incorporate the best of them into a two-minute speech that will inspire them to embrace the future?
CHATGPT: Certainly! Here’s a two-minute speech that incorporates the key points to inspire executives in the asphalt industry about embracing the future: Good [morning/afternoon/ evening] everyone, It’s truly an honor to gather here with leaders from across the asphalt industry.Reed Ryan, executive director of the Utah Asphalt Pavement Association and chairman of the State Asphalt Pavement Associations, Inc., addresses state asphalt pavement executives and guests at a dinner event held Aug. 7 in Utah Olympic Park, Park City, Utah.
Our industry has a rich history, but today, I want us to focus on the future—on the incredible opportunities that lie ahead. As we stand at the threshold of a new era, I urge us to embrace a vision that encompasses innovation, sustainability, and collaboration. The future of the asphalt industry is bright, and here’s why: First, sustainability is no longer a choice; it’s a necessity. Our industry has an incredible chance to lead the way in adopting econ-friendly practices. By championing technologies that reduce emissions, use recycled materials, and embrace efficient processes like warm-mix asphalt, we not only lower our environmental footprint but also create a stronger, more resilient industry. Imagine the impact of materials that stand the test of time—materials that outperform and outlast. The advancement in materials, coupled with smart infrastructure integration, are set to revolutionize the way we build and maintain roads. Think of the possibilities of optimizing traffic flow through data analytics or enhancing maintenance with real-time insights. And let’s not forget the importance of resilience. Climate change and extreme weather events pose challenges, but they also present opportunities for innovation. By building asphalt infrastructure that can withstand the unexpected, we ensure the longevity and reliability of our projects. But none of this can happen in isolation. Collaboration is the cornerstone of progress. Let’s forge partnerships that drive research, development, and shared learning. Let’s create an environment where ideas thrive and where the status quo is constantly challenged. The future of mobility is upon us. Electronic vehicles, autonomous transportation— they’re not just buzzwords: they’re transformative shifts. Our industry has a pivotal role to play in adapting to these changes, in
paving the way for the vehicles of tomorrow. Lastly, investing in our workforce is investing in our future. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, by equipping our workforce with the skills needed for the technologies of tomorrow, we ensure that our industry remains strong and dynamic. In closing, the asphalt industry’s future is an inspiring landscape of sustainability, innovation, resilience, collaboration, and skilled excellence. Let’s not just be observers of this future; let’s be its architects. Together, we can create an asphalt industry that not only builds roads but paves the way to a better, more sustainable world. Thank You.
REED RYAN: This is great. Could you work in an inspirational quote from a well recognized world leader that would tie in these themes you have presented?
CHATGPT: Of course! Here’s the speech with an inspirational quote from a well-recognized world leader that ties in the presented themes: Good [morning/afternoon/ evening} esteemed colleagues, Today, I stand before a room filled with visionaries who are shaping the trajectory of the asphalt industry. Our industry’s history is remarkable, but it’s the promise of the future that truly excites me. Let’s take a moment to reflect on these words from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘The future depends on what you do today.’ As we stand on the cusp of a new era, I implore us to envision a path that’s market by innovation, sustainability, and unity. The asphalt industry’s horizon is illuminated by remarkable possibilities, and here's why: First a foremost, sustainability is our compass, guiding us toward a more responsible future. Our industry has an incredible opportunity to lead by example, adopting practices that are gentle on our planet. Technologies like warm-mix asphalt and the use of recycled materials are not
just commendable—they’re our responsibility. They ensure a legacy of environmental stewardship that generations to come will appreciate. Imagine a world where our materials are more than just robust—they’re exceptional. The rapid advancement of materials, coupled with the infusion of smart technologies, is redefining what’s possible. Picture roads that analyze traffic flow and learn to adapt, or surfaces that self-heal to ensure longevity. This is the future we are creating. However, resilience is our armor against the uncertainties of a changing world. We’re confronted by challenges, but they’re also catalysts for ingenuity. By erecting asphalt infrastructure that’s unwavering in the face of adversity, we demonstrate our commitment to lasting impact. Yet, progress isn’t solitary—it’s a symphony of collaboration. Let’s forge alliances that foster innovation. Let’s incubate ideas that challenge norms and blaze new trails together. The spirit of collaboration will define our industry’s ascent. Our world is evolving. Electric vehicles and autonomous transportation aren’t just distant dreams; they’re knocking at our door. Our industry is pivotal in sculpting a landscape where these technologies can flourish. The roads we build will be the conduits of progress, connecting these innovations to society. In conclusion, the words of Mahatma Gandhi echo in our pursuit: ‘The future depends on what you do today.’ The future of the asphalt industry is luminous with the hues of sustainability, innovation, resilience, unity, and unwavering commitment. We hold the trowel to shape it. Together, we’re not just building roads; we’re constructing a legacy of progress. Thank you. CA
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already meeting low-use mileage requirements may no longer claim the low-use option in the CARB TRUCRS truck and bus reporting system. If your fleet has a vehicle that operates less than 1,000 miles a year and contains a 2009 or older engine and still isn’t in the lowuse provision, inquire about lateclaiming the low-use option.
The Clean Truck Check:
vehicles must submit passing PSIP/ OBD tests. Pre-2013 engine model year vehicles must submit passing PSIP tests twice a year, while 2013+ engine model year vehicles must submit passing OBD tests twice a year, then four times a year after three years of two times a year testing. All reported vehicles will also be subject to an annual $30 compliance fee.
2023-2024 marks a pivotal time in the vast and complicated world of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) environmental regulations. The “fly-over” years of mandates are over. Fundamental changes have now become law, and new amendments are inbound. In this article we will break down the critical points, so you can focus on driving your fleet to success!
The Truck and Bus Regulation:
On Jan. 1, 2023, fleets entered the final replacement stage of the Truck and Bus Regulation. All on-road diesel powered vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds must have a 2010 or newer engine to operate in California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has and will refuse registration for non-compliant trucks.
Trucks with 2009 or older engines that are not registered lowuse (less than 1,000 miles per year) may not be driven on California roads and highways. Trucks with 2009 or older engines that are not
In January of 2023, CARB began the phase in of the Clean Truck Check. The Clean Truck Check is meant to ensure vehicles’ emissions control systems are functioning properly when traveling on California’s roads and highways. To accomplish this goal, CARB has implemented roadside emissions monitoring devices (REMDs). These devices, which look like upside down Ls, can be stationed anywhere from vehicle checkpoints to weigh stations. REMDs can detect high emitting vehicles, and should your vehicle register a hit, you may be issued a notice to submit testing (NST). Failure to submit a passing emissions test (Periodic Smoke Inspection Program [PSIP] or On-Board Diagnostic [OBD] test) to CARB within 30 days can result in enforcement action.
In addition to REMDs, there are new reporting and periodic testing requirements. All vehicles subject to the Clean Truck Check (diesel powered vehicles with GVWRs > 14,000 pounds) must report in a new CARB database coming mid-to late-2023. Within six months of the database coming online, all subject
The Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation (ACF):
On April 24, 2023, CARB approved the Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation. This regulation transitions High Priority Fleets, those with 50 or more affected vehicles, those with GVWR 8,501 or higher, or companies with $50 million in revenue with one affected vehicle, to zero-emission trucks by 2045. The Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation requires High Priority Fleets to begin to comply with one of two compliance options: 1. Model Year Schedule or 2. Zero Emission Vehicle Milestones. The Model Year Schedule requires replacement of vehicles when they meet the end of their regulatorily defined “minimum useful life” with a zero-emission vehicle starting Jan. 1, 2024. The Zero Emission Vehicle Milestones Option requires defined percentages of a fleet’s vehicles to be zero emission at different year milestones starting Jan. 1, 2025. The actual percentage of vehicles a fleet needs to be zero emission is determined by the types of vehicles the fleet has and the milestone year. Although CARB
has approved this regulation, California’s Office of Administrative Law sent the regulation back to CARB for changes, likely delaying the implementation date for the regulation. In addition, CARB requires a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make this regulation enforceable. None the less, CARB staff is now going to begin development of a regulation for fleets with less than 50 affected vehicles.
The Off-Road Diesel Regulation has a wave of new amendments on the horizon aimed at further reducing high emissions in the off-road sector.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2024: All fleets will be banned from adding vehicles with Tier 3 engines to their DOORS account. DOORS
is the on-line tool designed to help fleet owners report to CARB off-road diesel vehicle inventories and actions taken to reduce vehicle emissions. In addition, Large (>5,000 total horsepower) and Medium fleets (hp between 2,500 and 5,000 horsepower) will be banned from adding vehicles with Tier 4 Interim engines to their DOORS account.
All fleets will be required to use only renewable diesel for their off-road fleet or submit to arduous recordkeeping requirements showing that renewable diesel is not available. Responsible officials will be required to sign an affirmation that the fleet complies with this requirement annually.
Large fleets are banned from operating vehicles with Tier 0 engines unless those vehicles are reported as low use and meeting the hour limitations of the low use provision.
Prime contractors are required to hire fleets complying with the off-road diesel regulation and keep records that they have done so. Non-compliant fleets will be reported to CARB.
The year-by-year low-use provision will sunset and become a permanent low use provision with a 3-year, 200-hour rolling average limit.
If all these new mandates seem like a lot to handle, it’s because they are! Luckily, there is lots of information and expertise available to assist you in meeting all the new requirements. CA
Drew Delaney and Michael Ortiz are environmental consultants for Huntington Beach-based Associates Environmental. Contact them at (949) 352-4941 or via their website at: www.associatesenvironmental.com
Sometimes you have to see what all the fuss is about in person.
Freshman Assemblyman Tri Ta, R-Westminster, stopped by a Hot Mix Asphalt class being held Aug. 3 at Cal State Long Beach as part of the Caltrans-industry Joint Training & Certification Program.
"I had a great time learning about his successful project," he posted on his social media account, noting that the JTCP "strengthens
the economy and infrastructure of our region."
The visit was initiated by CalAPA and hosted by Dr. Shadi Saadeh, the JTCP program manager, and attended by various Caltrans officials and other dignitaries who oversee the program. CalAPA championed the formation of the JTCP back in 2014, and sits on the JTCP Advisory Council.
Ta received a briefing about the program, which has strained and
certified thousands of construction materials technicians in California, ensuring that materials are tested to the highest standards by competent testers. Following the briefing, the legislator witnessed a Hot Mix Asphalt I class in progress and got to see the various tests attendees must perform to achieve their certification.
"It was a privilege for us to host Assemblymember Ta, Caltrans and CalAPA on our campus toAbove: Avinash Ralla, Caltrans (left), Janice Leibl, CSULB, Tim Greutert, Caltrans, Shadi Saadeh, CSULB, Dr, Jinny Rhee, CSULB, Assemblyman Tri Ta, Tom Ostrum, Caltrans, Gabriela Lope, Caltrans and Shelly Chang, CSULB at the Aug. 3 tour of the Joint Training & Certification Program on the campus of Cal State Long Beach. Left: Attendees greeting and getting to know one another at the social mixer prior to the presentation and tour.
celebrate Phase 4 funding for JTCP, as well as the impact of the program on the attendees, industry and the state of California," CSULB College of Engineering Dean Dr Jinny Rhee told California Asphalt magazine following the tour. "We are proud to contribute to the workforce development needed to keep our infrastructure strong."
Also attending the event was Tim Greutert, chief of the Catlrans Materials Engineering & Testing Branch for Caltrans which also
carries with it the title of state materials engineer. "I feel very honored to work with such a great group of contributing people," Greutert told California Asphalt magazine. "We have established and continue to improve a program that leverages the strengths from industry, academia, FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) and Caltrans to sustain a workforce with the skills needed to deliver the quality materials taxpayers expect from our construction projects. Amazing team effort!"
As the accolades continue to roll in for the program, Saadeh is getting plenty of practice showing off the classes for VIPs. Previous tours have been conducted at Long Beach and on the campus of San Jose State University for former Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, author of SB1, as well as Sen. Dave Cortse and Assemblymembers Patrick O'Connell, Alex Lee and Ash Kalra.
"The JTCP is a life example of the success of public-private partnerships to advance workforce development," Saadeh said. CAAbove: Lunch and speakers were on the agenda before heading off to the lab tour. Above: Trainer Dave Aver oversees a student utilizing new techniques at the training and certification program. Left: Tom Ostrom, Division Chief of Engineering Services for Caltrans (second from right), makes a point to Assemblyman Tri Ta (center) as Dr. Shadi Saadeh looks on.
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The Women of Asphalt
California Branch volunteers added a festive flair to this year’s sold-out “Day at the Races” social event at Del Mar Race Track.
In what has become a popular annual tradition, the Women of Asphalt were back with a colorful “Hat Contest” that even featured a craft table where contestants could glam up their hats on opening weekend July 22 at the famed seaside venue.
A record number of contestants entered this year's competition (pictured), which turned heads in the CalAPA luxury suite. A raffle and silent auction also added to the day's activities, which raised $1,400 for Women of Asphalt educational activities.
“I really enjoy ‘Day at the Races,’” said Sydney Johnson, project manager for Earth Systems and also a Women of Asphalt California Branch volunteer. “It is a fun event and a great way to connect with all sorts of different people, friends
and their families. But as a Women of Asphalt member, my favorite part was parading around the suite for the hat contest. I feel like it is a cohesive partnership between CalAPA and the Women of Asphalt California Branch.”
Special thanks go out to the event sponsors: Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions, Inc., Martin Marietta, MCK Services, MacRebur, Patriot Risk & Insurance Services, Sully-Miller Contracting Co. and Valero Energy. CA
Epic 'Day at the Races' brings together industry for fun and to support a good cause
Women of Asphalt California Branch volunteers, supported by CalAPA, participated in a successful Caltrans District 10 "Kids Day" event in Stockton, inspiring the next generation of workers in our field.
The volunteers set up a handson booth where youngsters learned about the various ingredients that go into asphalt pavement mixtures, and how they are measured and tested. Toy dinosaurs helped make the connection for the youth of the origin of fossil-based materials that make up a key ingredient in asphalt.
More than 100 children participated in the July 18 event. Joining CalAPA staff Sophie You and CalAPA Summer Intern Allie Labanieh at the asphalt display table were Women of Asphalt California Branch Co-Chair Mimi Le with MCK Services, and Karen Monnetti-Ramirez with Caltrans District 10.
“I was very excited to have the Women of Asphalt participate with a booth at our Kids Day event," said Caltrans District 10 Director Dennis T. Agar. "Caltrans is very supportive of any young people, especially women, who see engineering and construction as a future career, and (Caltrans) wants to play an active role to usher these talented and enthusiastic young people into the transportation industry.”
Le, who was named Women of Asphalt California Branch co-chair earlier this year, said the kids that visited the asphalt table were very enthusiastic.
"I think the kids learned something new," she said. "They never knew fossil fuels were made from dinosaur remains, basically. Some were very, very excited. Some said, 'Are we driving on dinosaurs?' It helped ignite some interest in the industry. Even the adults learned something new."
Participating in the event is part of an initiative by the Women of Asphalt California Branch, supported by CalAPA, to help recruit and develop the next generation of workers in the asphalt pavement industry. The other co-chair of the Women of Asphalt California Branch is Cathrina Barros, chief of the Office of Asphalt Pavements in Headquarters.
Labanieh, the CalAPA summer intern who was closest in age to many of the kids at the event, said, "The kids of all age groups were very engaged and happily recited information as well as asked a bunch of questions. Most were very interested in the dinosaur connection to asphalt."
The interactive booth was the brainchild of Karen Bonnetti Ramirez, the Caltrans District 10 pavement engineer who helps develop pavement maintenance
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projects for the regional district that is headquartered in Stockton and oversees operations in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties in California’s Central Valley. Bonnetti-Ramirez said she drew inspiration for the booth from an asphalt pavement class she has taught since 2008.
“It was supposed to be a class for construction personnel about testing of Hot Mix Asphalt,” she said, “but I expanded the class to go into the origin of asphalt. When people understand more about what they are doing, they do a better job.”
Much of the interaction during the day was aimed at kids, but parents learned a lot as well, Bonnetti-Ramirez said. “It is like a family event, just seeing their faces. The parents often get as excited as the kids. The parents also asked a lot of questions, and we were meeting the intellectual needs of both at the same time.”
In addition to displaying samples of aggregate, liquid asphalt in its cooled solid form, and crumb rubber, Bonnetti-Ramirez also used ping pong balls to educate visitors about the importance of interlocking aggregates, held together by asphalt binder, to
form the “flexible” pavement that gives asphalt important attributes appreciated by engineers and motorists alike.
“They immediately understood how all the concepts come together,” she said. Bonnetti-Ramirez expressed her deepest appreciation for the support she received leading up to the event from District Materials Engineer Mandeep Dhesi, and asphalt lab workers Hans Cemenzind and Darrius Shumake.
Although she has been member service manager for CalAPA for more than a decade, You said she also learned a lot about asphalt while staffing the booth, and credits Bonnetti-Ramirez.
“I’ve never seen anyone as passionate about asphalt as Karen,” You said. “Karen is so dedicated, and really appreciates being part of such a supportive group as the Women of Asphalt California Branch.”
Although much of her day job revolves around managing the CalAPA office, finances, and planning events, You said she got to play the role of teacher during the District 10 Kids Day event.
“You try to do something to relate to the audience,” she said. “For the little kids, I used the example of Amazon trucks. I said, ‘You don’t want your toy to arrive
broken. That’s why we need to fix the roads so that doesn’t happen.’ For older kids, I would ask them about getting a driver’s license. I would say, ‘Do you want to drive on smooth asphalt? Or do you want to drive on rough roads that shake you like a bobblehead?’ They immediately understood. Then I showed them a puck of asphalt that was smooth and one that was deformed, and they learned about proper mixes and durability.”
Karen used a great example,” You noted. “She talked about baking a cake, and needing to have the right ingredients, and making it the right way. For a visual person, that helped people understand the importance of what we do.”
You said the Women of Asphalt volunteers appreciated that the District 10 managers stopped by the booth and took time to listen to the interactive presentations. “Our table was one of the most interactive ones,” she said, “so there was a lot going on.”
To learn more about the Women of Asphalt California Branch, visit the CalAPA website at www.calapa.net. CARussell W. Snyder, CAE, is executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association (CalAPA). Above: L-R: CalAPA Student Intern Allie Labanieh, Karen Bonnetti-Ramirez of Caltrans, Caltrans District 10 Director Dennis Agar and CalAPA’s Sophie You.