Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Highway Funds Not Spent Routinely On Longest-Lasting Pavement

Most states, including Wisconsin, do not spend their growing amount of federal highway funds from the stimulus program on the longest-lasting pavement, knowledgeable sources tell me.

To date, more than $529,000,000 of stimulus funding has been committed to state highway projects, with about $100 million earmarked for I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line.

[See the state stimulus spending chart, here.]

Wouldn't it make sense to build highways with this one-time money on pavement that would last the longest - - up to double the US norm of about 20 years, according to this industry report.

Shouldn't we spend our highway dollars without building obselence and waste into the pavement?

European countries routinely use pavement mixes and known road construction techniques that can achieve even a 50-year highway useful life, one source told me.

That estimate is backed up by a comprehensive report and posting by the US Federal Highway Administration from studies and scans of data that explain and document the benefits of the European methods - - here.

From the Federal Highway Administration site, here are a few key paragraphs:

"Safety and mitigation of congestion are two of the most important strategic goals of the U.S. highway community. Long-life concrete pavements require less frequent repair, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, and therefore contribute to improving highway safety and mitigating congestion.

"Experience with long-life concrete pavements, including examples of concrete pavements that have remained in service for more than 40 years, has been noted in previous scans of European countries.

"Information about these long-lasting pavements and the design and construction practices that produced them will be valuable to those involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of concrete pavements in the United States.

"In the United States, the typical design life for pavements in the past was 20 years, although a number of States use longer design lives. Major rehabilitation and reconstruction of pavements are difficult and expensive to accomplish, especially in urban areas. The next generation of portland cement concrete (PCC) pavements in the United States must be designed and constructed to achieve longer service life.

"The purpose of this scan is to identify design philosophies, materials requirements, construction practices, and maintenance strategies (including winter maintenance strategies), used by selected European and other countries to construct and operate portland cement concrete pavements with life expectancies of 40 years or more, that differ from U.S. practices and would be applicable in the United States."

Here is some simpler background on the different methodologies, with information about one demonstration project on I-70 in Kansas.

If Wisconsin wanted to really steward and shepherd its stimulus funding, as well as all the highway funds it collects and spends from taxpayers, it would aggressively implement these longer-lasting construction methods - - starting now.

Let's at least get the biggest bang for the buck, since highway building is still getting far more of the stimulus transportation pot than transit.


enoughalready said...

Amen to this. I have been reading up on potholes and found -- no surprise, really -- that cheaper road construction leads to more potholes, which then often go unrepaired due to budget constraints. And innovative and effective pothole repair compounds do exist, but these are of course more expensive. said...

Unfortunately this is true because of various factors and gripped by internal politics of governments nationwide. Some companies like Roadway Management offer pavement management programs to governments which is good for taxpayers and the environment. "Our goal, in this program, is to guarantee the right treatment to the right road at the right time. The implementation of these treatments will be based on established engineering, economic, and environmental principles. The result for road owners will be higher quality pavements, lower life-cycle costs, and a 50% reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions."

Anonymous said...

This issue has been around for years - would be nice to see a pol from either party make a serious issue of this.

Keep in mind though what happens to any elected official that gets on the wrong side of the road builder lobby.