Since the day more than 200 years ago when Thomas Jefferson first proposed scrapping the English system of pounds and miles for the French milliliters and kilometers, America has engaged in a long-term flirtation with the metric system. Nowhere has that sometimes strange relationship been more apparent than in the highway industry. Over the years, the U.S. Congress has passed legislation first prohibiting, then insisting on the use of the metric system in letting contracts. The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 required the federal government to implement the metric system in procurement, grants, and other business-related activities. President George Bush followed up with an Executive Order in 1991 mandating the transition to metric measurement for all federal agencies. Highway engineers were eager to accept the system; but contractors who were producing concrete pipe, screws, and bolts realized that they were going to have to retool to produce in metric. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) removed the deadline for conversion and made metric purely a voluntary matter for states. Now contractors and officials must contend with a dual system of measurement. Currently, 14 states use the metric system exclusively for highway contracts, 8 use both systems, and 30 use only the English system. Economic forces may yet compel the country to join the rest of the metric world. The Wall Street Journal noted in a recent issue that America's refusal to adopt a metric system costs the country more than $2 billion in lost trade opportunities.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Intertec Publishing Corporation

    6151 Powers Ferry Road, NW
    Atlanta, GA  United States  30339-2941
  • Authors:
    • Southerland, R
  • Publication Date: 2000-2-15


  • English

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00788938
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 18 2000 12:00AM