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Kim Snyder

Kim Snyder

Warm Mix Asphalt: From Innovation to Every Day Practice…Fast.

by Kim Snyder on March 19, 2012
Past Chairman - National Asphalt Pavement Association
President — Eastern Industries

How FHWA’s EDC initiative has moved the paving industry forward through its WMA initiative.

The asphalt paving industry was thrilled when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recognized the innovativeness of Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) and put their weight behind its rapid deployment. It was less than 10 years ago when the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) led an industry group to Europe to learn about WMA technologies. The first trial WMA project in the United States was in 2004 and by the end of 2009; WMA comprised 5 percent of the asphalt pavement market. FHWA’s EDC initiative began in 2010 and in that year alone, over 47 million tons of WMA was produced, almost a 150 percent increase over 2009. The percentage of DOTs, agencies, and commercial mixtures using WMA more than doubled from 2009 to 2010 1.

As of 2010, WMA now comprises about 15 percent of the asphalt pavement market. While 15 percent may seem like a low percentage, it should be noted that this growth was observed in only six years even as the total dollars spent on highway construction flat lined (public spending) or declined (private spending). This speaks to the fact that the most promising innovative materials and practices allow for flexibility in production and construction while maintaining performance and lowering cost. There has been no other asphalt paving innovation in recent history that has been embraced by industry and implemented so quickly and successfully. The EDC initiative has been instrumental in encouraging State DOTs and local agencies to allow WMA use so that the asphalt paving industry can provide improved quality at lower costs.

Speaking of quality, our company’s deployment of WMA focused on assuring the highest quality possible. We recognized the benefits of WMA in 2007 and through our Quality Process Group; we developed our own WMA system and conducted field trials with control sections. The results of the field projects were positive and we recognized WMA as improving our products and the environment. In addition, field personnel on paving crews reported "more pleasant" working conditions due to lower temperatures and the ease of placement of WMA.

Based on current data and projections, it is expected that WMA will comprise more than 25 percent of the market in the next year. Further, in three to five years, we expect WMA will be the industry standard for asphalt mixtures. While WMA was recognized as an innovative technology and put into practice by the asphalt pavement industry, its rapid adoption by highway agencies would not be possible without FHWA’s EDC initiative and focus on innovation. It’s with confidence that we move forward with WMA as "Every Day Practice".

1Newcomb, D. and K. Hansen. Asphalt Pavement Mix Production Survey: 2009-2010, NAPA Information Series 138, National Asphalt Pavement Association, Lanham, MD, 2011.

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