Florida’s Department of Transportation held an increasing amount of power in regards to Pavement Type Selection. Their design specifications and cost/benefit analyses of our materials on both streets and local roads, as well as for mainline paving, resulted in over-designs of concrete. Even as the price for our materials dropped, we were fighting an uphill battle with little or no chance of making real progress.
To compound matters, as the FDOT goes, so goes the local governments as to how they address the construction of their streets and roads. Until we make inroads in mainline, we can’t touch streets and roads.
The FDOT would sit down with us, talk to us and hear our concerns. However, nothing would change as the Department would engage in a host of tools at their disposal. Often it was practicing “Death by Question” or “Death by Hypothetical”. At best, the meetings might result in what would later be understood as a hollow victory. It became a measured dance of “two steps forward, two steps back”.
The three biggest impediments in dealing with the FDOT were:
1) The FDOT has unconditional authority to decide pavements and no obligation to change anything. The Department’s guidance on pavements were not based on state law or administrative code. Rather, it was based on manuals which are pointed to as obligatory when it suits their needs and suggestive, at other times, if that better serves a self-fulfilling prophecy. This lack of any legal input for our industry lead to our having to start from scratch every time there was a change in leadership and made it impossible for us to make true gains and to make certain those gains would be recognised in perpetuity.
Solution: We needed to establish some legally required process, either statutorily by a legislative action or administratively in an administrative code, where our input would have to be responded to by the FDOT to our satisfaction and where any gains would be institutionalised.
2) The FDOT was not really going to listen to material suppliers on how they should build roads. We were cement producers, aggregate producers and ready-mix producers, not road builders.
Solution: By attracting the concrete paving contractors to join our Association and lead the initiative, we would gain the credibility necessary in communicating with the FDOT. Therefore, we established the Concrete Paving Alliance of Florida as a division within the FC&PA who would subsequently prove critical in our making strides.
3) We thought we knew how the FDOT, the Legislature and State Government worked. We had the highest price lobbyist in Tallahassee and we were well connected, but even with those attributes just scratched the surface as to what we needed to know. Without a confident and broad understanding of the process, you are flying blind and the FDOT and our detractors knew that.
Solution: Our Association went out of its way to hire a President who had over 20 years of experience in the government and the legislative process and had a reputation in Tallahassee as a highly worthy adversary. The FDOT and others knew immediately that we were suiting up for battle, if need be, and that we would be setting our own path rather than looking to them for direction.
Why would the FDOT be so hesitant to switch to concrete? To protect the “status quo”, and in this instance, the status quo is asphalt. In order to make meaningful change, and to change the status quo, they have to have a compelling reason to do so, and a shield should that change be proven to be the wrong choice.
It was our hope that by the time we were finished we would put together all the ingredients which would lead the FDOT into doing the right thing- that is to create a competitive playing field and finally have a competitive two pavement system in the state of Florida.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/28052013/effective_concrete_advocacy_part03/