An Etnyre spreader broadcasts aggregate during chip sealing, one of the pavement preservation methods promoted by NEPPP.
As construction costs soar in a struggling economy, transportation officials are seeking ways to improve safety and extend the life of the nation's roads while getting the most value from a shrinking pool of tax dollars. A promising solution quickly gaining acceptance throughout the transportation industry is a set of practices known as pavement preservation.
Proponents of these practices want to create uniform pavement preservation standards that would benefit the entire transportation construction industry, from highway designers and contractors to government officials responsible for maintaining infrastructure, to the taxpayers footing the bill.
One group endorsing this concept is the recently established Northeast Pavement Preservation Partnership (NEPPP). Comprised of transportation officials, contractors, consultants, materials suppliers, and members of academia, NEPPP represents a geographical area covering 11 states from Maine to Maryland and the District of Columbia and the eastern Canadian provinces. The organization, now preparing for its second official meeting, promotes the benefits of pavement preservation and encourages members to share their research, design and construction methods.
NEPPP is joined by three other regional groups with similar missions — the Midwestern Pavement Preservation Partnership (MPPP), the Southeastern Pavement Preservation Partnership (SEPPP), and the Rocky Mountain Pavement Preservation Partnership (RMPPP). All were established with help from the National Center for Pavement Preservation (NCPP) in conjunction with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Preserving Beats Rebuilding
The regional groups embrace the national center's philosophy that pavement preservation has to be proactive in nature, involving taking action before a pavement fails instead of reacting to a failed pavement. Such action can range from simply sealing cracks to preventive maintenance surface treatments such as slurry seal, chip seal, micro surfacing, and thin-lift overlays.
"It's cheaper to maintain a good road properly than reconstruct a failed one," says Edward Denehy, P.E., a civil engineer 4 with the New York State Department of Transportation. Elected NEPPP chair at the group's first official meeting, held last December in Warwick, RI, Denehy noted that NYSDOT has implemented many pavement preservation projects and developed specifications for their treatments. Last year, for example, NYSDOT put down about 30,000 tons of warm-mix — most of it thin-lift — to preserve pavements. The department currently spends about $120 million a year for pavement preservation from state and federal dedicated funds.
The fact that federal funds are now being provided for pavement preservation projects is a welcome cultural shift, according to Denehy.
"Until a few years ago, the feds would provide funds for construction and reconstruction of Interstate roads, but not for maintenance. However, they are now very supportive of these preventive maintenance techniques because they recognize the value of not only protecting the interstate system — so vital to America's economy — but the secondary roads that feed traffic to the interstates," he says.
Denehy, a 35-year DOT veteran, is one of the founding fathers of NEPPP. He worked closely with the FHWA and the National Center for Pavement Preservation, which helped set up the operating framework for the Northeast group. Headed by Executive Director Larry Galehouse, the national center fosters cooperation among private industry, academia, consultants, and federal and state agencies to advance pavement preservation practices through education, training and research.
During NEPPP's early development, Denehy formed a committee with Matt Turo of the Massachusetts Highway Department, Colin Franco of the Rhode Island DOT, and Rod Birdsall of All States Asphalt. This committee edited the group's bylaws and planned early informal NEPPP meetings and the first official meeting held in Warwick.
The members of that ad hoc committee brought with them extensive knowledge of pavement preservation by means of their longtime professional affiliations. Massachusetts has been practicing pavement preservation for a number of years. As far back as 2005, the state had performed 300 lane-miles using these practices, and at present, MassHighway has more than a dozen different pavement preservation projects under way.
Rhode Island also has been using pavement preservation treatments for some time. About one-third of the state's 1,100 National Highway System roads are undergoing preservation treatment.
And All States Asphalt has been supplying and installing pavement preservation products for many years. (All States' Rod Birdsall was elected industry vice chair at NEPPP's first official meeting.) The contractor is one of a score of companies from industry that support NEPPP. Many of them set up booths at meetings to educate participants about new products and services.
Private Industry A Resource
"Industry has a lot to offer, and we invite companies to join us and share their knowledge and experiences with pavement preservation," Denehy says. He believes industry is a resource for transportation agencies and can help in forging a uniform approach to pavement preservation designs and specifications.
Among the companies that have participated in NEPPP activities are: asphalt suppliers and contractors such as Brox Industries, The Gorman Group, Hudson Liquid Asphalt, Sealcoating Inc., and Costello Industries; asphalt producers SemMaterials, Midland Asphalt Materials, and Peckham Materials Corp.; asphalt refiners Chevron Products and Citgo Asphalt; and suppliers of proprietary products used in pavement preservation applications. The latter include Suit-Kote and Sasol Wax Americas products used in warm-mix technologies, and BASF Corporation polymer-modified asphalt emulsions employed in micro-surfacing, chip seal and other pavement preservation practices.
Help From The Center
NEPPP meetings bring together representatives of companies, state DOTs and Canadian province transportation agencies, FHWA and AASHTO, consultants, and organizations like The Asphalt Institute, Transportation Research Board and various construction materials associations.
Meetings held by NEPPP and the other regional partnerships are facilitated by the National Center for Pavement Preservation through the efforts of Galehouse and Patte Hahn, administrative manager. The center — due to its networking with academia, transportation agencies and industry — arranges expert speakers selected by NEPPP to address meetings. It even manages mundane activities — arranging for speakers' travel reimbursements, for example, or reserving hotel rooms, providing audio/visual equipment for presentations, and composing the minutes of these technical meetings.
The center's close relationship with industry allows it to draw upon their resources to perform technical studies related to pavement preservation. An example of this is the center's current Polymer-Modified Emulsions (PME) study for FHWA and the Federal Lands Highway Division (FLHD), for which two BASF Corporation specialists, Dr. Koichi Takamura, a PME scientist, and Chris Lubbers, a senior technical engineer, are conducting pro-bono lab research and analyses.
From Study To Standards
The feds plan to use the results of this study to help write national standards for the product — standards to be used as another tool by NEPPP and other regional partnerships in promoting the benefits of pavement preservation.