Pavement Facts

Pavement Facts

There are over 4.05 million public centerline road miles (8.52 million lane miles) in the U.S. and of this, 2.50 million miles (or 63 percent) are paved (FHWA 2009).  About 70 percent of Washington State roads are paved.  Nearly 94% of the paved roads in the U.S. are paved with asphalt surfacing (Asphalt Institute 2014), which is a testament to the enduring value of asphalt roads.  An extensive list of AsphaltFacts can be found at the Asphalt.Facts website.

Life Cycle Cost

Life Cycle Cost

Today’s current national and local economic conditions – combining reduced funding with high infrastructure needs – have elevated the importance of prudent spending. Decision makers exercising good stewardship practices can easily justify their decisions and choices to their constituents. Good stewardship practices include a detailed, logical, and documented pavement type selection process that includes a life-cycle cost analysis as a key component.

Perpetual Pavement

Perpetual Pavement

The Perpetual Pavement concept was first articulated in 2000 and the concept has rapidly gained acceptance. The APA’s newest technical document on the subject is Perpetual Asphalt Pavements: A Synthesis. This comprehensive publication captures the activities that have taken place over the last decade, synthesizes the information in way that is useful to providing guidance for Perpetual Pavement design and construction, and provides a vision for further research and development to refine Perpetual Pavements.

Since the inception of the Perpetual Pavement Awards program, the Washington State Dept. of Transportation has been awarded four Perpetual Pavement Awards.

An Article on the Basics of Pavement Design and Perpetual Pavements

Assuming an entirely new road where there has been no pavement before, the process begins with an examination of the right of way and the projected mix of traffic and the expected loading. Then, the soil is prepped, in some cases amended, compacted, and graded (F in the figure). During this stage, drains, sewers, and other features are placed. Next comes the pavement foundation, usually gravel that is placed and compacted (E).



Once the foundation is in place, actual paving begins. Asphalt is usually placed in layers, which can range from several inches thick to a fraction of an inch thick, depending upon the mix, position in the structure, and the purpose (A, C, and D in the figure).

Asphalt mixtures are like recipes, there are a lot of options — the size of the aggregates, the Performance Grade of the binder, recycled materials, additives, etc. — and the goal is to build a strong, long-lasting pavement. Ideally, the mixes should be designed and placed in a way that distributes the strains of traffic loading throughout the pavement in a way that localizes any distresses to the surface. If an asphalt pavement cracks at the surface (A in the figure), it is a fairly quick and easy process to mill off the surface and to replace it with a new surface, allowing the structure to remain in service indefinitely. If cracks happen at the bottom (regardless of pavement type), the pavement full depth of the pavement has to be replaced/repaired — a much more time intensive and costly proposition.

Asphalt mixes are produced at an asphalt production facility according to the mix design formula (or recipe) and loaded into a haul truck for delivery to the job site. On the site, the mix is transferred to a paver that places the mix at the desired width and thickness. The paver is followed by a compactor that tamps down the asphalt to the desired level of compaction. Once compaction is achieved and the pavement has sufficiently cooled, the next layer can be placed (or the road opened to traffic). Between each layer of a pavement, a tack coat (usually an emulsion of asphalt cement) is used to glue the layers together, improving the bond between the layers and strengthening the structure (B in the figure).

If an existing road is being repaired or replaced, the work can be as simple as milling off a few inches and replacing it with a few inches of new asphalt mix. (It’s worth noting that since asphalt is 100% recyclable, when a pavement is milled the millings are almost always saved and reused, usually to replace a percentage of the virgin asphalt cement and aggregates in a new pavement.) Or it may be a more extensive project that involves an entirely new structure, such as when an old concrete pavement is rubblized to create a foundation for a new road.

Author: T. Carter Ross, Communications Director for the National Asphalt Pavement Association.
Article originally appearing on Quora. com, June 9. 2014.

Sustainable Pavement

Sustainable Pavement

Asphalt is the sustainable material for constructing pavements. From the production of the paving material, to the placement of the pavement on the road, to rehabilitation, through recycling, asphalt pavements minimize impact on the environment. Low consumption of energy for production and construction, low emission of greenhouse gases, and conservation of natural resources help to make asphalt the environmental pavement of choice.  A short video on asphalt sustainability is available here, or read WAPA’s Sustainable Pavement page.

Livable Communities

Livable Communities

There is no doubt that societal trends and economic realities will shape the pavement market going forward. Those driving factors include public funding issues, an emphasis on sustainable growth and livability, environmental stewardship, employment trends and future supply/capacity.  Accounting for all of these factors, asphalt pavements are perfectly positioned to address the future needs for livable, thriving communities, from freeways to residential streets as well as the other “everyday” infrastructure all around us, such as bike trails paved with porous asphalt.