As a primary means of moving goods and people, our existing roadway networks are vital to the health of our community and economy. Much like our personal health, the effectiveness of the existing system is often taken for granted and issues are addressed only after they’ve become problems. Reactive maintenance programs are expensive. In order to maintain a healthy and financially sustainable roadway system a proactive approach is critical.

Over 90% of the roads in America are paved with asphalt. A petroleum product, Asphalt Cement (AC), over time and with exposure to sun, will oxidize causing the pavement to lose its flexibility, becoming brittle and more susceptible to stress. Even with low traffic loadings, all asphalt pavements will eventually deteriorate and crack. Once cracking occurs water can infiltrate the underlying base, greatly reducing the structural capacity of the overall pavement section and lead to larger base failures such as settlement and potholes. Once at this stage, the remedies become expensive. The key is to be proactive and avoid the significant failures by utilizing various preventative maintenance techniques. This will extend the life of your roadway and reduce your overall life-cycle costs.

So what to do about your road? Like personal healthcare products, there are a multitude of products and processes on the market today. All of these products, including chip seals, fog seals, slurry seals, and crack seals, promise to restore the vitality and youthful appearance of your asphalt pavement. For the more advanced aging problems there is milling and resurfacing, micro-surfacing, full depth reclamation, and in-place recycling. Each of these can provide a specific benefit with the proper application; however, all come with a cost. Unfortunately, there is not one magic solution. Various factors such as pavement condition, age, mix design, location, traffic loading, and intended use must be taken into consideration. As with our personal health, a short-term diet provides only short-term benefit. Long-term health requires a long-term commitment. With aging pavement the answer is not typically a singular product or process. The true solution is a maintenance program.

Johnson Engineering has been providing roadway pavement analyses for various entities for many years. If you have a roadway system, young or old, and would like help in determining an appropriate program to keep it healthy while minimizing your long term costs, contact Ryan Bell, P.E., PTOE, at [email protected].