Much of the country’s transportation infrastructure needs repair or outright replacement. Near our American headquarters in the state of New Hampshire, the roads and bridges are crumbling. Some of the roads in Detroit are so bad that many of them could be returned to dirt and motorists may not even notice. This past spring, President Joe Biden proposed a massive infrastructure bill that may begin to address some of this decay.
Now without getting political, President Biden’s proposal could mean some serious cash flow into the US infrastructure sector. Some of our portfolio companies could be big beneficiaries. Biden’s proposal also includes incentives for electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative energy solutions. That’s good news for Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and others pushing the edge of that envelope.
The Infrastructure Bill: President Biden’s Ambitions for Roads and Bridges
Before I dive into the meat of this post, I want to emphasize that my goal is to always avoid politics when investing. I only use it as a reference point to help my investing be more successful. I never want my investing to be beholden to a political party. The goal is to find opportunities regardless of the political landscape.
In his infrastructure bill, President Biden has proposed spending $135 billion on improving America’s roads and bridges. About $20 billion of that is specifically aimed at improving safety. The Fact Sheet states that these funds are focused on “safe streets for all.”
This apparently means making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists, likely meaning more lanes for people and bikes. This would seem consistent with Biden’s bigger picture goal of making the US a climate leader. More people on bicycles means less tailpipe emissions and fewer cars sitting in traffic.
Otherwise, Biden’s infrastructure bill seeks to spend this money on improving existing roadway systems and less on adding new roads. The White House fact sheet on the topic proposes repairing some 20,000 miles of road and 10,000 small bridges. It also mentions repairs to some “big” strategic roads and bridges that are in particular need of repair.
How the Infrastructure Bill Could Support Innovation
The money spent on roads and bridges will likely be used for conventional repairs and reinforcements, but there are more adventurous options the administration can explore. So, what are some of the technologies and ideas out there that would put the funds to good use?
The most obvious are the latest in cement compositions. For example, various research groups around the country are working on high-strength cements that resist cracking better than the most common cement materials today. This could be most helpful in the colder regions where freezing and thawing during the winter months is especially damaging.
Some of the latest high-strength cements have five to six times the strength of traditional cements. These cements use low-cost titanium dioxide particles as reinforcement to obviate the need for steel wire. The material can be pre-cast into a roadway or bridge section, cured under carefully controlled conditions in a manufacturing facility, and then transported to the construction site.
Precast bridge section made from hi-strength concrete. (Source: pomiceconcrete.com)
Self- Healing Cement
A research group in the Netherlands at Delft University has produced a viable self-healing cement. That means that if the cement cracks, it will automatically fill-in the crack resulting in a material with roughly its initial strength.
The cement achieves self-healing by using a biological agent and many small capsules filled with calcium lactate inside. If a crack develops in the cement, any water that enters the crack kicks-off a reaction that produces limestone. This material bonds with both faces of the crack and then bonds them together.
The result is as if there never was a crack in the material at all! Certainly more impressive than your average cement crack filler.
Example of self-healing cement in action. (Source: wiliamtuualaufale.com)
Future roads will also incorporate smart behavior and even artificial intelligence (AI). Imbedded sensors in the cement will measure vibrations in the cement as cars and trucks drive overhead. Using AI, the sensors will “learn” how the cement vibrates when cracks in the cement grow to critical size. Road monitoring engineers will be alerted and respond accordingly.
Roadway Safety Innovations
Similar embedded sensors, like those used to detect cracks, will also measure the temperature of the roadway surface. As temperatures get low enough for ice or snow to build up, these sensors send signals to lower digital speed-limit signs to reduce risk for drivers.
Also using smart technology, additional road sensor technology is under development to detect pedestrians crossing streets. In urban centers where pedestrian safety is a challenge, the sensors detect a pedestrian and light up an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) right on the roadway that will clearly alert the motorist who may not otherwise see the pedestrian.
LEDs embedded in roadways could very likely reduce injuries. (Source: smartcitystreets.com)
How the Infrastructure Bill affects MegaTrends
Which of these technologies will receive funding in the short term is hard to say. Regardless, the US has millions of miles of roadway that need repair immediately and in the years ahead. This cash outlay to address these issues is simply unavoidable.
Companies will earn vast revenues from this work. Also, infrastructure in all the major industrial nations needs constant care, so global players in the infrastructure sector will see strong growth for decades. Infrastructure planning will always be a MegaTrend to keep an eye on.
Find More Time to Live!
With all this talk about the infrastructure bill, you must be wondering – what are the “best” infrastructure stocks? It all depends on your style of trading, but we’d be happy to share with you the stocks we’ve put real money behind!
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