The following article was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
In it, asphalt pavements constructed in the 1990’s get the blame for premature failure on several municipal roads throughout Minnesota. Of course, I read with interest the entire story. I then read the comments. All 66 of them. I expected bashing of our industry by the readers, but it was not there. To my surprise, I found the readers to be quite well informed and their comments creative, insightful, and interesting.
There are however, a few things that have been left out that I feel need to be addressed.
The author cited the report, and the problems identified, but neglected to include the conclusions and recommendations of the report. This would suggest to the reader that we don’t know what happened. The report made its conclusions very clear and pointed to simple recommendations.
The article leaves one to believe it is a materials issue. The report, however, attributes the problems more to construction methods (cutting corners by a contractor). Public works projects are awarded to the low bid contractor and given a set of rules to follow. In our experience, a little extra effort and concern (pride) goes a long way to ensuring success. While two projects may look similar, there can be a huge differences in the quality and durability of the finished product.
Local soil conditions will have a huge impact. Woodbury, Plymouth and Eden Prairie, cities cited as having the problems, are all very well known for having heavy clay soils. Clay soils, when saturated, become unable to support loads very well. Additional engineered design measures must be taken to give pavements any chance of survival. Limited funds make proper engineering often impossible.
Unlimited funding belongs in someone else’s Utopia, but is not consistent with reality. Limited funding is a fact everyone knows, and one that we, as an industry, are doing our best we can with what is available. Recycling is to everyone’s benefit. 100% of asphalt removed can be reused as asphalt on another pavement. Often, recycled materials are excluded in specifications which drives costs up.
Asphalt pavements can, and sometimes do, outlast concrete. I have seen it. Initial costs, and life-cycle costs, typically favor asphalt. 94% of paved surfaces are paved with asphalt. Adjustments and technological improvements are continually being implemented. Today, we can make asphalt as durable as concrete. The asphalt vs. concrete debate is ongoing, even when concrete pavements are generally constructed with twice the thickness of asphalt pavements.
Pavement deterioration can be attributable to a number of factors. In my opinion, moisture during freeze-thaw cycles might be the single greatest culprit, and when combined with heavy loads, create the bulk of the damage, particularly over clay soils.
In the report, sealcoating, a generally accepted maintenance strategy to extend pavement life, is thought to contribute to the problem when pavement densities are inferior. One solution identified in the report is to sealcoat pavements earlier. We have an even better solution: seal the pavement when it is new with environmentally friendly Biorestor®. Biorestor® helps seal and preserve new pavements and is particularly helpful in areas where densities are low.
In summary, we are one of the few vertically integrated paving companies in the Twin Cities that produces, installs, and maintains asphalt pavements. We have been doing so for nearly 70 years. We have skilled, trained, and engaged employees. We give them the right tools and equipment, and we expect them to do their jobs right. One of our mottos developed in the 1990’s was: “Quality and Safety – Requirements, not Options”. We have not experienced the problems described in the article.
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