The Future Rides on Asphalt

When you need pavements that perform, look for asphalt. As our nation's infrastructure ages and demands upon our transportation network grow, pavements must deliver value, sustainability, innovation, and flexibility — asphalt offers all of these. As asphalt pavements meet the safety and performance needs of road users as well as provide road owners and designers with the innovative technologies to make smart decisions.

Value

Asphalt roads offer superior value. 

First, asphalt’s life-cycle costs are low, in part because the structure of asphalt pavement doesn’t have to be replaced. Well-maintained asphalt roads can last indefinitely and never need to be reconstructed. Further, it’s recently been shown that new asphalt pavements last 18 years on average without maintenance.1 When maintenance is required, Thinlays, the industry's foremost pavement preservation method, extend the life of an asphalt pavement, providing the best use of materials and money in appropriate applications. 

In addition, there are asphalt contractors in every community, so competitive bidding ensures road owners get the best price for their project. Asphalt pavements are quick to construct and maintain, minimizing disruption for drivers and local businesses.

  1. Robbins, M.M., & N.H. Tran (2018). Review of Initial Service Life Determination in Life Cycle Cost analysis (LCCA) Procedures and in Practice (NCAT Report 18-02). National Center for Asphalt Technology, Auburn, Alabama.

Sustainability

When an asphalt pavement is maintained, the in-place material removed from the site becomes part of the raw materials for new pavement layers. A 100 percent reusable material, reclaimed asphalt pavements (RAP) perform as well or better than virgin mixes. In 2017, more than 76.2 million tons of RAP and nearly 950,000 tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles (RAS) were used in new asphalt pavement mixes in the U.S. That year about 103.5 million tons of RAP and RAS were stockpiled for future use across the country. Reusing RAP in future pavements saved nearly 50 million cubic yards of landfill space during 2017.1

  1. 2017 NAPA WMA Survey. http://www.asphaltpavement.org/PDFs/IS138/IS138-2017_RAP-RAS-WMA_Survey_Final.pdf

Innovation

Asphalt engineers are constantly innovating to make roads perform for today and the future. The asphalt industry is committed to workforce training and to scientifically analyzing pavements to ensure the best products. Past innovations in asphalt surface mixes have helped reduce the pavement–tire noise level of asphalt, making it the "quiet pavement." These quiet pavement technologies include open-graded surfaces, fine-graded surfaces, rubberized asphalt, and stone-matrix asphalt, which have led to noise reductions as great as 7 decibels.1  Reducing noise by 3 decibels is equivalent to doubling the distance from the road to the listener.

  1. PIARC (2013). Quiet Pavement Technologies. Report 2013R10EN. F.G. Practicò and M. Swanlund (eds.). World Road Association (PIARC), La Défense, France.

Flexibility

With the option of nighttime construction and without the lengthy curing time typical of concrete,1 asphalt pavements offer the flexibility needed to handle all levels of traffic, and they can be maintained or repaired quickly — up to 3 times faster2 — with minimal disruption to travelers. With long-life pavement designs, asphalt roads can be built to last many decades with only periodic surface renewal and maintenance.3  Smart planning — including increasing roadway capacity and maintaining the pavement surface — along with the swift construction possible with asphalt can help address the $170 billion U.S. motorists lose to traffic delays.4 

  1.  Poole, T.S. (2005). Guide for Curing of Portland Cement Concrete Pavements. Report FHWA-RD-02-099. Federal Highway Administration, McLean, Virginia.

  2.  LaMondia, J.J. (2018). User Safety and Delay Costs During Rehab Surfacing. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

  3. Pavement Interactive. "Perpetual Pavements", August 2007.

  4. TRIP. Key Facts About America's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding, August 2018.

Pavement Technologies

The asphalt pavement industry continues to innovate to improve the sustainability of its products. Warm-mix asphalt (WMA) is an important part of this and in 2013, warm-mix asphalt won the Construction Innovation Forum NOVA Award for its innovativeness and engineering, economic, and ecological benefits.1 WMA technologies reduce the production and placement temperature of asphalt pavement mixtures while also improving pavement properties. This lowers fuel consumption and further cuts greenhouse gas emissions.2 When WMA is fully implemented, the U.S. will save an estimated 150 million gallons of No. 2 fuel oil and cut carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 210,000 cars annually.3