Highway Infrastructure: Protecting the nation's investment
With an Interstate system that spans more than 67,000 Km (42,000 mi) and
many thousands more miles of local and State roads from coast to coast,
mobility is crucial to our country's well-being and quality of life.
Whether it means being able to get to work, to take a family vacation,
or to ship goods from one State to another, both citizens and businesses
alike expect safe and reliable roads. A sound infrastructure is the
backbone that provides this reliability.
A sound transportation infrastructure requires care and maintenance, however.
The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Infrastructure
is working with our partners in State and local highway agencies and
industry to promote a range of initiatives aimed at enhancing our
highway system, increasing safety, and reducing congestion. One key
to a better system and reduced congestion is managing construction
and maintenance work zones more effectively. As a growing portion
of the State highway system reaches the end of its initial service
life, work zones are a fact of life across the country. But all work
zones are not created equal: Highway agencies are demonstrating that
innovative practices can reduce the impact of road work. These practices
include using temporary road closures to complete work faster, enhancing
public information programs that encourage motorists to use alternate
routes during construction, and using such innovative contracting
practices as design-build, warranties, and incentives/disincentives
to encourage better quality control and faster work. We know that
our customers want us to "get in, get out, and stay out,"
and more highway agencies are accomplishing this task.
Mobility is crucial to our
country's well-being and quality of life.
Even better than a well-managed work zone, however, is not needing a work
zone at all. As an increasing number of highway agencies introduce
longer lasting high-performance materials, less disruptive preservation
and maintenance work will be required. Bridges that are being built
with high-performance concrete (HPC), for example, are expected to
last significantly longer than conventional bridges in certain environments.
HPC is made using the same basic materials as conventional concrete,
but the proportions and curing conditions are engineered to produce
concrete mixes that meet the requirements of specific bridge projects
and thus provide a more durable, higher-performing structure. The
adoption of HPC is being aided by FHWA's Innovative Bridge Research
and Construction Program, which provides funding to help State and
local transportation agencies use innovative materials for bridge
repair, rehabilitation, replacement, and construction.
|More highway agencies are accomplishing the task of "
getting in, getting out, and staying out" of work zones.
Quality control and quality assurance programs also help to cut down on the
time needed for maintenance and repairs. As more highway agencies
embrace an asset management approach, which emphasizes the timely
preservation, maintenance, and upgrading of highway assets through
cost-effective planning and resource allocation decisions, an important
byproduct is an increased focus on quality. Highway agencies are using
pavement, bridge, and maintenance management systems, for example,
to collect and monitor information on current conditions, forecast
future conditions, and determine the best program of highway or bridge
investments to pursue over a designated time period. The use of these
systems will help agencies to maintain a steady level of performance
and quality and optimize the use of limited highway resources.
A road's effective service life can also be extended through pavement preservation
efforts, which involve the application of carefully selected surface
treatments applied at the right time. The key is to apply the treatments
when the pavement is still in relatively good condition, with no structural
damage. It is estimated that the use of pavement preservation treatments
can extend the life of a pavement by 5 to 7 years. Ultimately, the
less repair work that needs to be done, the less congestion and traffic
disruption our customers will have to face. In addition to pavement
preservation efforts, the use of such newer technologies as HIPERPAV,
the Superpave system, and stone matrix asphalt is also central to
achieving more durable pavements.
Over the long term, FHWA's and our partners' efforts to enhance pavement
and bridge performance, improve safety, and cut congestion will be
bolstered by the work of the Transportation Research Board's Future
Strategic Highway Research Program (F-SHRP). Research areas being
considered for F-SHRP study include achieving rapid, long-lived reconstruction
of highways with minimum disruption and reducing user delay. The F-SHRP
efforts, combined with the ongoing State and Federal emphasis, will
be important in ensuring that the Nation's infrastructure continues
to provide the safety and reliability that is so vital to our daily
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