As our nation's infrastructure ages, and the demands upon our transportation network grow, smart decisions need to be made for our economic future. Asphalt pavements offer cost-effective, high performing solutions. Taking into account today’s limited budgets, asphalt offers the return on investment required to meet the needs of road users and pavement designers.
Asphalt pavements ensure the smooth, quiet, and safe ride drivers demand.
Asphalt pavements also provide the flexibility and solutions necessary to improve, repair, or change the road system as traffic volume and demands change. With asphalt, maintenance and repair can be handled cost effectively with minimal impact on road users.
More than 93 percent of paved roads in the U.S. are surfaced with asphalt1 because it offers the affordable, high level performance drivers and road owners demand. Through night time construction and no concrete curing time, asphalt pavements offer the flexibility needed to handle all levels of traffic and they can be maintained or repaired quickly 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.2 Smart planning — including increasing roadway capacity and maintaining the pavement surface, along with the rapid speed of construction possible with asphalt can help address the $121 billion U.S. motorists lose to traffic delays, as well as the CO2 emissions associated with congestion.3
A smooth, continuous asphalt surface adds to pavement longevity1 and requires less maintenance than rougher roads.2 Additionally, asphalt pavements don’t have transverse expansion joints disrupting their smoothness every few yards. Smoother roads can also save drivers money. Rough roads cost the average motorist $377 per year in wear and tear on their vehicles,3 and studies have found that smooth pavements can improve vehicle fuel economy by 4.5 percent.4 In fact, FHWA has determined that pavement smoothness is a key factor in ensuring satisfaction for road users.5
WesTrack Track Roughness, Fuel Consumption, and Maintenance Costs, Tech Brief No. FHWA-RD-00-052. Federal Highway Administration. 2000.
Innovations in asphalt surface mixes have helped reduce the noise level of asphalt, making it the "quiet pavement." Quiet asphalt mixes can reduce the need for costly sound barriers.1 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.2 Reducing noise by 3 decibels is equivalent to doubling the distance from the road to the listener. And since asphalt roads tend to be quieter than other paving materials,1 they ultimately can lead to less driver fatigue, underlining the pavement's superior safety capabilities as well.
Donavan, P.R., L.M. Pierce, D.M. Lodico, J.L. Rochat, and H.S. Knauer (2013). NCHRP Report 738: Evaluating Pavement Strategies and Barriers for Noise Mitigation. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C.
Poor highway conditions were linked to 5.3 million crashes in 2009, causing $217.5 billion in economic losses and 22,455 fatalities.1 Substandard roads can cause loss of vehicle control, reduced ability to perform motoring tasks, driver fatigue, and an increased frequency of accidents.2 Because asphalt pavements can be resurfaced quickly and economically, it is easy to ensure good road condition with minimal inconvenience for drivers. In addition, a variety of surface options add to the flexibility of asphalt. For example, open-graded friction courses can be used to drain rainwater from the road surface, reducing splash and spray while improving traction and visibility, which can greatly reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.3 Similarly, high-performance, rut-resistant stone-matrix asphalt mixes have been shown to improve surface drainage and increase friction during wet weather.4
NCAT (2009). Hot Mix Asphalt Materials, Mixture Design, and Construction, Third Edition. NAPA Research and Education Foundation, Lanham, Maryland.
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 perform as well or better than virgin mixes.1 In 2012, 70.5 million tons of asphalt pavement material was reclaimed, and nearly 100 percent was reused.2 Asphalt pavements can also put a wide range of previously used materials to productive use, including rubber tires, asphalt roofing shingles, and blast furnace slag.3 Through the recovery and reuse of asphalt binder from asphalt pavement and asphalt roofing shingles, the industry saved customers $2.27 billion in 2012.2
West, R.C., D.H. Timm, J.R. Willis, R.B. Powell, N.H. Tran, D. Watson, M. Sakhaeifar, E.R. Brown, M.M. Robbins, A. Vargas-Nordcbeck, F.L. Villacorta, X. Guo, and J. Nelson (2012). Phase IV NCAT Pavement Test Track Findings. NCAT Report 12-10. National Center for Asphalt Technology. Auburn University. Auburn, Alabama.
Hansen, K.R. and A. Copeland (2014). Information Series 138: 3rd Annual Asphalt Pavement Industry Survey on Recycled Materials and Warm-Mix Asphalt Usage: 2009–2012. National Asphalt Pavement Association. Lanham, Maryland.
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
NAPA (2008). Warm-Mix Asphalt (PS-30). National Asphalt Pavement Association. Lanham, Maryland.