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A Partnership for Better Pavements
Making the Promise of Superpave a Reality
Superpave (Superior PERforming Asphalt PAVEments) is a performance-based system for designing asphalt pavements to meet the demanding roadway needs of the next century. This performance-based approach holds the promise of more durable pavements that can withstand extremes of temperature and heavy traffic. The implementation of Superpave will allow highway agencies to spend scarce public funds more efficiently by extending pavement life and lowering maintenance costs. The bottom line for the driving public is safer, smoother rides on better roads at a lower cost.
Five Superpave Regional Centers will provide the technical leadership and assistance to ensure that the promise of more durable asphalt pavements becomes a reality. The centers will evaluate Superpave equipment and methodologies and work with highway agencies and industry to put them into practice. The centers will also be an important source of hands-on training for engineers and technicians at a local level. Sharing knowledge of the Superpave procedures throughout the highway industry will speed the implementation of Superpave as the standard for asphalt binder selection and mix design. The Superpave Regional Centers are a unique source of expertise and assistance for highway agencies in their quest to build better, longer lasting roads.
Serving Customer Needs
The key to the Superpave Regional Centers is service. As a government/industry partnership, the centers are dedicated to serving the needs of a broad range of customers within the highway community. The centers are resources to assist in the strong developmental effort and widespread training required by the new and complex Superpave technology.
Each center is located at a State university and has an advisory group to oversee operations. The advisory group draws its members from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), State highway agencies, the regional Asphalt User-Producer Groups, materials suppliers, contractors, consultants, and universities. Each center will become self-supporting, using the funding obtained by its advisory group. The State/university team provides laboratory space, engineers, and technicians. The FHWA provides equipment and initial training.
The centers are designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs of State highway agencies and the asphalt industry. The regions for each center have not been rigidly defined. State highway agencies, local agencies, industry associations, and universities may establish relationships with any center they choose, working with the center that best meets their needs. The centers are focused on customer service and establishing a wide range of partnerships within the highway community. The Superpave centers have general objectives to further develop the Superpave mix design and analysis system. However, the intent is that each center also have the flexibility to serve the needs of the partner groups participating in the center. The following general objectives will be accomplished by each center through specific projects identified by the partner groups.
A brief description of each of these objectives follows.
AASHTO Committee Urges States to Partner with Superpave Regional Centers
The AASHTO resolution reads (in part):
At its April 1996 meeting, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Standing Committee on Highways passed a resolution urging its member States to support the Superpave Regional Centers. The AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways encourages a close partnership between State highway agencies and the Regional Superpave Centers. Specifically, the resolution recommended that the State highway agencies provide funding support and loaned staff, and participate in oversight of the center's operations.
As an ongoing partner in implementing Superpave, the FHWA approves using the pooled fund mechanism for States to provide resources to the regional centers.
The Asphalt Institute, under a contract with the FHWA, plays a central role in supporting the activities of the five centers and the asphalt industry to develop and implement the Superpave mix design and analysis system. Disseminating information and providing training on a national level are key responsibilities of the Asphalt Institute. The Superpave centers will bring training opportunities and hands-on experience to a wider audience of engineers and technicians on a regional basis. Loaned staff arrangements with State highway agencies and industry associations allow the centers to utilize the expertise of seasoned professionals while training them in Superpave equipment and methodologies.
The centers will conduct training on the Superpave binders, mixtures, and mix design and analysis systems. Specific training will be tailored to meet the needs of the center's partner organizations. Regional center staff will be available to provide off-site training or to assist in the design and evaluation of particular pavement construction projects. To meet specific goals of their partner groups, the centers may also be available for forensic analysis and troubleshooting, referee testing, certification programs, proficiency testing programs, and technology transfer
Evaluating the Superpave Equipment and Procedures
The research and testing performed by the Superpave centers will validate the Superpave equipment, methodologies, and prediction models before large investments in actual pavement construction. This validation is being accomplished by a team from industry, academia, and government on a regional basis, ensuring that the training and knowledge required by Superpave is disseminated nationwide to all partners within the highway industry.
Each of the Superpave regional centers is fully outfitted with the Superpave mix design and analysis equipment. Two devices developed for use in Superpave mix analysis are the Superpave Shear Tester (SST), and the Indirect Tensile Tester (IDT). The FHWA will make a pooled fund purchase of this equipment for all of the States. Under the guidance of the Asphalt Technical Working Group, the FHWA procured an initial set of SSTs and IDTs and has lent them to the Superpave centers so that the highway community can experiment with the devices and test procedures.
The FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, Virginia, is also outfitted with SST and IDT units. The TFHRC will participate in equipment evaluation with the centers and conduct its own research on the Superpave mix analysis. The knowledge gained by all the centers will help to ensure that the devices eventually purchased for the States will be proven, reliable, and usable tools.
The centers are available as a resource for research and development activities in the area of pavements and materials. Any center may establish a partnership for a specific research project with public agencies, private industry, or universities. The scope of the project and the source of funding would be determined by the partners in the project.
Depending on need and availability of funds, the centers can be utilized to assist States in initial Specific Pavement Studies (SPS) design, verification, and in-place pavement analysis as part of the FHWA's Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) effort.
Partnership for Better Pavements
The road from laboratory to full implementation can be a long one, especially when it involves a technology as complex as the Superpave system. The Superpave Regional Centers will make this road as smooth as possible by establishing strong partnerships to serve the needs of public agencies and private industry. The centers represent an unparalleled source of asphalt technology expertise, capability, and support to assist in the implementation of the Superpave system. The centers will rigorously evaluate Superpave equipment and procedures while providing hands-on training and experience to pavement specialists throughout the country. This partnership approach will make the promise of better pavements a reality.
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