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Paved With Good Intentions

Construction technology is constantly improving, with new materials and products appearing all the time. Most new compounds or products never make it out of the lab, but even those that do have to prove their worth in real world deployments. Superpave is no exception. I profess no knowledge of the the asphalt business - Superpave Asphalt Technology Program seems like a good starting point - but is seems from a look around that Superpave is a technology not a single product.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette reports that Superpave asphalt, touted as a new surface for the Pennsylvania Turnpike that would last 10 to 15 years, is crumbling in sections where it was applied only five years ago.

And what is it that's causing the Pennsylvania Turnpike's deployment of this superior asphalt technology to fail? Water and ice.

Comments (10)

Every year or two the aspha... (Below threshold)
Corky Boyd:

Every year or two the asphalt paving industry comes out with a new formulation that promises show dramatic improvement over its otherwise miserable performance. So far it has been nothing but a lot of smoke and mirrors.

Four years ago I moved from Michigan, where the battles between asphalt pavers and
concrete paving industry were ongoing. There is no question that Michigan's harsh freeze-thaw environment along with legal 160,000 pound trucks (steel haulers) that asphalt was just not up to the job. Yet with heavy lobbying along with generous campaign contributions, they still get about the same percentage of the state road contracts as in the past.

The main advantage for asphalt paving is political. For example, when governor Engler was running for his second term, polling showed his only threat to reelection was the crumbling road system. Asphalt to the rescue. You can repave about three times the amount with asphalt (by grinding off the top surface and repaving) as with concrete. And it could be done by Nov. 1. Promises were made that it was designed to last 8 years. In reality it only needed to last until the first Tuesday of November, which it did, but it started crumbling shortly after.

An ineresting sidelight. Around 1991 Michigan was given a federal grant to pave a strip of about a mile of I-75 to the european standard. The test was done on one of the most heavily travelled stretches. From memory it consisted of two pours of 8 inches of concrete separated by something (can't remember what). In thirteen years, there has not been a pothole nor any sign of deterioration. It is supposed to last 35 years with no downtime for repairs. I can believe it.

Rarely do the state road commissions factor in the downtime and traffic tieups that annual maintenance and minor repairs cause. They look at life cycle costs only and maybe political benefits. Sad.

Corky Boyd

Water and ice.... (Below threshold)

Water and ice.
DAY-Um! Couldn't a foreseen that kind of thang!
(/end sarcast)

Pennsylvania's road are the... (Below threshold)

Pennsylvania's road are the disgrace of the nation. Really. PennDOT is, not suprisingly, one of the most corrupt, cronyistic, nepotistic organizations in a state already famous for governmental corruption.

When we're on a road trip, you can tell you're back in good old Pennsylvania without even seeing the signs. The roads go from smooth to complete crap, almost instantly.

One of the problems that mo... (Below threshold)

One of the problems that most states have with their roads, is how they treat them in the winter. As you know, the road crews use a lot of salt on the wintertime roads to melt the ice. Well this salt is very corrosive and will eat the pavement (asphalt or concrete). This very lucerative to the salt industry. There are other products out there that do the same thing, only better.

The way to stop the deterioration of the roads is to force the States’ DOTS to stop using salt in the sand that they spill in the roads. This will also cut some of the government waste and fraud. Of course, the Road Construction companies will fight this tooth and nail. They depend on the corruption of the government to keep their jobs and businesses afloat. This will save a lot of cars too.

I think we're being too har... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

I think we're being too harsh here. After all, we now have a new answer to the age-old problem of how to tell your asphalt from a hole in the ground. That's gotta be worth something...


Ahh, PA roads! Having live... (Below threshold)

Ahh, PA roads! Having lived here all my life, they don't bother me. I guess all you out-of-staters like to make fun of us for our roads. That's OK, we are a weird group anyway. We have the Amish, after all.

As a Pennsylvania native, ... (Below threshold)

As a Pennsylvania native, a joke everyone got was:

Q: What's yellow and sleeps six?

A: A PennDOT truck!

Moved since for career. PA has had ups and downs in its highway program.

But the Euro standard of paving sounds interesting.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike C... (Below threshold)

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is a nest of
cronyism. Don't even apply for a job on the PA turnpike
unless you know somebody politically.

Having said that, Pennsylvania has the highest number
of truck-miles in the nation. They don't call it the
Keystone State for nothing; everything goes through
here. And it has a very high range of temperature
extremes. Salt is indeed very hard on roads but there
is no viable alternative.

Personally, I would like to the all tolls eliminated.
It would eliminate all the money collectors which
must work 24/7/365 and the cronyism that goes
with it. There are good reasons to have taxes; roads
are one of them.

And cold; it has been a hor... (Below threshold)

And cold; it has been a horrible winter, esp for states that aren't used to it. That's why they pave so much here in NH. Penn has been hit with weather they are not used to so yes, the pavement will definitely crumble as it does everywhere there is bad weather. Not the company's fault; nothing is really made for this horrid cold and snow. Right now it's 10 degrees out. I'm waiting for the frost heaves but haven't found any yet. So far so good on this side of the state.


One asphalt back road I tra... (Below threshold)

One asphalt back road I travel regularly seems to require a complete repaving at least every two years. The road just down from my house "slumps" into a graded corner like clockwork every summer. Concrete certainly does seem to last longer. With the exception of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which seems to have accidentally been paved with stale powdered sugar instead of cement.






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