Speed of Construction

Introduction

Americans want well-maintained and functional roads, but they don’t want to waste time and money waiting in traffic for construction work to end. The ability to construct and maintain roads quickly gives asphalt pavements the drivability factor motorists need. Asphalt construction methods allow planners and managers to fix congestion hot spots and bottlenecks during off-peak hours, so commuters may never see an orange barrel or a construction-related traffic jam.

Key Pavement Technologies

Asphalt pavements are built in layers adding strength and increasing the road’s carrying capacity as each layer is placed. During some phases of construction, and more importantly during maintenance operations, a road that is being worked on can be opened to traffic as soon as the pavement reaches a specified temperature and state of compaction. With asphalt, there is no lengthy curing period during which the road is closed to traffic even though construction activities are not currently occurring.

Asphalt overlays, which can range from a fraction of an inch to several inches thick, provide a quick, economical solution to aging roads in need of preservation and updates for increased roadway capacities.1 As concrete pavements age and their performance deteriorates, the most viable means of rehabilitating the pavement is by overlaying the concrete with asphalt.2


A Thinlay treatment uses a thin asphalt overlay to quickly restore drivability to an urban street.

The asphalt industry uses Perpetual Pavement designs to build long-life asphalt pavements that never require major structural repairs.3 Instead, they require only minor surface rehabilitation about every 12 to 15 years. This work can be done quickly outside of peak traffic hours.


Watch how quickly asphalt can repair roads during a typical six-hour nighttime shift.

By contrast, when a concrete pavement reaches the end of its useful life, it must undergo expensive, time-consuming replacement from the base up. As an alternative, an old concrete pavement can be rubblized to create a base for a new asphalt pavement.4

Emerging Research

Asphalt research facilities and partners are constantly testing new ways to increase the efficiency of asphalt construction practices, allowing project managers to build roads faster and smarter.

An ongoing project at Texas A&M Transportation Institute is seeking to quantify the benefits of asphalt’s speed of construction to include its effect on project completion time, construction costs, user delay, work zone safety benefits, and ancillary costs. Final results are expected in the fall of 2014.

Drivability

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports that 42 percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested,5 costing the economy an estimated $121 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.6 Other reports show that 27 percent of the nation’s roads are in a substandard state of repair, costing drivers $377 every year in additional vehicle operating costs due to poor road conditions.7 That not only hurts the national economy, it also deals a hefty blow to already strained household budgets. Congested, poorly maintained road network has a negative impact even for walkable communities. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has found that congestion, primarily in urban areas, costs the trucking industry more than $9.2 billion, adding to the costs of goods and services.8

With asphalt pavements, smoothness and high performance, the essence of drivability, can be quickly restored through simple maintenance. Traffic congestion can be quickly eliminated by increasing travel lanes with asphalt pavements. Staged construction allows for roads to be built to handle today’s traffic volumes and then upgraded over time to meet changing traffic patterns and loads.

With the option of nighttime construction, and without the lengthy curing time typical of concrete,9 asphalt pavements offer the flexibility needed to handle all levels of traffic and can be constructed or maintained quickly with minimal disruption to travelers. In fact, new or newly rehabilitated asphalt pavement can be opened to traffic as soon as it has been compacted and cooled, there is no question of waiting for days or weeks, with traffic being detoured or squeezed. Simply put, the fastest choice in pavement construction is asphalt.

Sources

  1. Hansen, K.R. (2013). “A New Hit in Music City: Nashville Demonstration Project Highlights Benefits of Thin Asphalt Overlays for Pavement Preservation,” Asphalt Pavement, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 24–25. 

  2. Khazanovich L., R. Lederle, D. Tompkins, J.T. Harvey, & J. Signore (2012). Guidelines for the Rehabilitation of Concrete Pavements Using Asphalt Overlays FHWA TPF-5(149) Final Report. 

  3. Pavia Systems (2007). Pavement Interactive: Perpetual Pavements. http://www.pavementinteractive.org/article/perpetual-pavements/, retrieved 9 May 2014.

  4. Hadel, D.G. (2001). "Rubblization: A Cost-Effective Alternative for Pavement Rehabilitation,” Burns & McDonnell TechBriefs, No. 1, pp. 2–3. 

  5. ASCE (2013). Roads. 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. American Society of Civil Engineers, Washington, D.C.

  6. Schrank, D., B. Eisele, & T. Lomax (2012). TTI’s 2012 Urban Mobility Report. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, College Park, Texas. 

  7. TRIP (2012). Bumpy Roads Ahead: America's Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother. TRIP: A National Transportation Research Group, Washington, D.C.

  8. Pierce, D. and D. Murray (2014). Cost of Congestion to the Trucking Industry. American Transportation Research Institute, Arlington, Virginia.

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