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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > June 2004 > Looking to the Future of Pavement Technology
June 2004Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-04-026

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Looking to the Future of Pavement Technology

To achieve smoother, durable, and more cost-effective asphalt and concrete pavements is a foremost goal of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Pavement Technology as it works nationwide with State, local, and industry partners.

As part of our ongoing initiative to improve pavement smoothness across the country, for example, we are working with 11 States this year to hold workshops tailored to each State. These individual State workshops will address such areas as pavement smoothness specifications, design/construction techniques, and the use of road profilers to measure smoothness when paving. We also sponsored a road profiler comparison and verification study this year to improve analysis methods and testing procedures used for profiler verification (see article, page 3). More information on our projects and activities related to pavement smoothness can be found at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/hq/smoothness.cfm.

Another ongoing initiative focuses on the new dimension that the forthcoming Mechanistic-Empirical Design Guide for New and Rehabilitated Pavement Structures will bring to pavement design. Developed under National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 1-37A, the Guide will provide a uniform basis for the analysis of flexible, rigid, and composite pavements using mechanistic-empirical approaches that more realistically characterize inservice pavement performance. This year, FHWA’s newly formed Design Guide Implementation Team will be introducing engineers from State highway agencies and FHWA to the Guide through a series of workshops presented around the country. These workshops will detail how participants can get ready to use the Guide. More information on the workshops and a schedule is available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/dgit/dgitfly2.cfm.

Also changing the way highway agencies do business today is the increasing use of longer-term pavement performance warranties. With the goal of improving pavement performance and reducing life-cycle costs, such warranties guarantee the integrity of the product and the contractor’s responsibility to repair or replace defects for a defined period.

Today’s pavement technology reflects an emphasis on environmental stewardship as well. FHWA’s Pavement Recycling Team, which includes several members from the Office of Pavement Technology, works to increase the highway industry’s overall use of recycled materials. The team has also partnered with the University of New Hampshire’s Recycled Materials Resource Center (RMRC) on numerous efforts. In September, the RMRC, in conjunction with the FHWA Recycling Team and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Recycling Task Force, will present a workshop on the beneficial use of recycled materials in transportation applications in Manchester, New Hampshire. The workshop will bring together State highway agency materials engineers and environmental specialists, State environmental protection agency staff, and FHWA Division Office personnel from 11 northeastern States to discuss the use of recycled materials in highways. It is planned that the workshop will serve as a model for other similar regional events.

The Office of Pavement Technology also works with FHWA’s Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) program to promote the implementation of the many LTPP products. Since 1987, the LTPP program has partnered with highway agencies on a series of long-term field experiments monitoring more than 2,400 asphalt and Portland cement concrete pavement test sections across the United States and Canada. Products resulting from this research include the on-line DataPave program (www.datapave.com), which contains all of the pavement data released by the LTPP program, and the LTPPBind software program. LTPPBind provides users with the ability to apply regional temperature and traffic conditions to select Superpave performance-grade asphalt binders. Additional information on LTPP products is available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/ltpp/index.cfm.

To advance the country’s concrete pavement technology, FHWA launched the Concrete Pavement Technology Program (CPTP) in partnership with States, industry, and academia. The program features a Concrete Technology Transfer Team that includes some of the Nation’s leading experts on pavement technology. More than 30 CPTP projects are now underway in 6 focus areas: advanced pavement design, improved concrete materials, improved construction processes, repair and rehabilitation, workforce training, and enhanced user satisfaction. The projects include everything from high-performance pavements to performance-related specifications to the use of precast concrete panels for rapid repair and rehabilitation. To learn more about CPTP, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/concrete/concost.cfm.

Key to successfully implementing today’s new pavement technology is a well-trained workforce. To train FHWA and State highway agency staff, we sponsor a 6-week pavement materials course every year in Reno, Nevada. And to keep FHWA’s engineers up-to-date on advances and issues in pavement technology, a pavements workshop is held every December in Washington, DC. Past workshop topics have included pavement design; surface characteristics (smoothness, noise, and friction); and quality control/quality assurance procedures. This year the workshop will focus on the use of pavement warranties and other innovative contracting technologies.

The Office of Pavement Technology also operates two fully equipped pavement materials mobile testing laboratories. These labs, one for asphalt and one for Portland cement concrete, visit 8 to 10 States and actual project sites each year, participating in materials design, construction testing, training, and equipment demonstrations.

As a member of FHWA’s Pavement and Materials Forum, the Office of Pavement Technology provides overall pavement technology direction and guidance for the agency. The Forum also includes representatives from the Office of Asset Management, Office of Infrastructure Research and Development, National Highway Institute, Federal Lands Highway Division Office, and FHWA’s Resource Center and Division Offices, as well as the Pavement and Materials Technical Service Team. Forum members meet twice a year to define technology focus areas and goals and assess progress.

As pavement technology continues to change and advance, a major emphasis of the Office of Pavement Technology this year and in 2005 will be determining the status of the Nation’s pavements. We will be working with the LTPP program and FHWA’s Offices of Asset Management and Policy to perform a comprehensive study and evaluation. Focus will provide updates on this study as it progresses. Better determining the current condition of the country’s pavements will serve as a roadmap for where we go next in continuing to advance and implement today’s array of pavement technology, and in achieving our ultimate goal of better and longer-lasting pavements.

Tommy Beatty is the Director of FHWA’s Office of Pavement Technology.

To learn more about the work of the Office of Pavement Technology, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement.

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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