Senators Kelly and Portman Introduce the ROCKS Act To Make Federal Transportation Projects More Efficient and Beneficial to Local Economies

Today, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and Ohio Senator Rob Portman introduced the Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping Aggregates Sustainable (ROCKS) Act, a bill that would make federal transportation projects more sustainable, efficient, and beneficial to local economies by advancing the use of locally-sourced aggregate resources, like sand, stone, and gravel. In the House, a companion bill has been introduced by Rep. Greg Stanton (AZ-09). 

In fast growing states like Arizona, aggregate building materials are needed to build roads, bridges, homes, and office buildings. Yet, as Arizona’s growth rate rapidly increases, builders are often unable to access locally sourced aggregates, causing an increase in both the cost of transportation and infrastructure projects in Arizona and the overall carbon footprint of these projects. 

Arizona is a leader on aggregate management. In 2011, the state legislature passed the Arizona Aggregate Protection Act, which required Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Regional Planning Organizations to identify nearby sources of aggregates while beginning construction projects. However, federal projects are not bound by such requirements despite significant evidence that demonstrates locally sourced aggregates are both more cost effective and environmentally friendly. The ROCKS Act strives to change that by requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to convene a working group to study the use of aggregate resources in federal transportation projects.

“To support Arizona’s economy and continued growth, we have to keep making investments in modernizing our infrastructure.  Arizona roads, bridges and transit projects should be built using sand, stone, and gravel from Arizona,” said Senator Kelly. “Advancing how we use locally-sourced materials will keep more infrastructure dollars in local economies, while also helping projects move more quickly. The ROCKS Act builds on a model created in Arizona, and is an important first step in shaping federal building practices to ensure that building materials are sourced in a cost-effective and sustainable way.”

“Aggregates – stone, sand, gravel – are the building blocks of every new home, building, road, bridge, and other public works project. Over the past few decades, aggregates have increasingly gone from being locally sourced to being hauled long distances, resulting in increased construction costs and inefficient project delivery,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan legislation would bring together federal, state, and local stakeholders to determine the best way to source aggregates around the country, in an effort to reduce costs and emissions, while improving project development and delivery.  I encourage my Senate colleagues to support this bill as we look to address our nation’s infrastructure needs.” 

 “While Arizona has taken steps to study and ensure aggregates sustainability, the ROCKS Act would further establish a working group of federal, state and local stakeholders to examine the use of aggregates and institute federal guidelines to ensure continued access to this critical resource,” said Steve Trussell, President of the Arizona Rock Products Association. “Planners in many areas around the country have clearly not recognized the importance of locally mined aggregates.  In Arizona, aggregates are an essential part of projects that people really care about including being a constituent in ready mixed concrete and asphalt that goes into the state and local infrastructure that is critical to our communities. Establishing a framework and new requirements for decision makers and community leaders to responsibly address one of the most critical elements affecting the viability of future development; the availability of affordable construction material. ARPA thanks Senator Mark Kelly for his tremendous leadership to advance the ROCKS Act in Congress.” 

The 400 members of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association applaud Sen. Mark Kelly (AZ) and Sen. Rob Portman (OH) for introducing the Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping Aggregates Sustainable (ROCKS) Act. Their leadership to advance this bipartisan legislation, that promotes sustainable access to needed construction materials, will improve the lives of all Americans,” said Michele Stanley, NSSGA Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs. “Aggregates are the second most utilized product in the world and are the bedrock in the creation of buildings, roads, airports and bridges. They are indispensable in developing the infrastructure needed to access clean water, deliver reliable energy and advance environmental stewardship. It is imperative that all communities have access to these essential resources as we work together to improve our outdated infrastructure. Sustainable, local access to aggregate materials improves construction costs, extends taxpayer dollars, reduces congestion and leads to better environmental outcomes.”

The working group formed by the ROCKS Act will: 

  • Study the use of aggregates resources in federally funded transportation and construction projects and how the proximity of aggregates resources impacts cost and the environment;
  • Examine how state, tribal and local transportation and planning agencies may consider aggregates resources when developing projects;
  • Identify measures the federal government, state, tribal and local transportation and planning agencies may take to preserve currently identified aggregate resources for future development.