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FHWA Home / OIPD / Accelerating Innovation / Every Day Counts / EDC-6: Targeted Overlay Pavement Solutions

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Targeted Overlay Pavement Solutions (TOPS)

Solutions for integrating innovative overlay procedures into practices that can improve performance, lessen traffic impacts, and reduce the cost of pavement ownership.

Approximately half of all infrastructure dollars are invested in pavements, and more than half of that investment is in overlays. By enhancing overlay performance, State and local highway agencies can maximize this investment and help ensure safer, longer-lasting roadways for the traveling public.

Improved Pavements that Last Longer

Many of the pavements in the Nation's highway system have reached or are approaching the end of their design life. These roadways still carry daily traffic that often far exceeds their initial design criteria. Overlays are now available for both asphalt and concrete pavements that enable agencies to provide long-life performance under a wide range of traffic, environmental, and existing pavement conditions.

Concrete overlays now benefit from performance-engineered mixtures, including thinner-bonded and unbonded overlays with fiber reinforcement, interlayer materials, and new design procedures that improve durability and performance. Asphalt overlay mixtures have also advanced significantly with the use of stone-matrix asphalt (SMA), polymer-modified asphalt (PMA), and other materials and agents that reduce rutting, increase cracking resistance, and extend pavement life.


Safety. Thousands of miles of rural and urban pavements need structural enhancement and improved surface characteristics, such as smoothness, friction, and noise. Targeted overlay pavement solutions can improve the condition of highways significantly in a relatively short time.

Cost Savings. Timely and well-designed overlay applications are consistently cost-effective because less subsurface work is required. In urban areas, impacts to utilities and pedestrian facilities are minimized.

Performance. Targeting overlay solutions to high-maintenance areas such as intersections, bus lanes, ramps, and curved alignments can pay immediate dividends in terms of reduced maintenance needs, fewer work zones, and improved safety.

State of the Practice

Recent improvements to design methods, interlayer technology, slab geometry, and concrete mixtures have broadened concrete overlay surface treatment applicability, reliability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. A joint effort by Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oklahoma resulted in the development of an improved design procedure for jointed unbonded concrete overlays on either concrete or composite pavements.

For asphalt overlays, several State departments of transportation (DOTs) have adopted SMA due to increased service life and performance. The Maryland, Alabama, and Utah DOTs each used over 1 million tons of SMA during a 5-year period. DOTs in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York City, Tennessee, and Virginia found highly modified asphalt in thin overlays is more resistant to reflective cracking. It has increased pavement life by two to four times for DOTs in Alabama and Oklahoma.


Asphalt Materials

Tim Aschenbrener
FHWA Office of Preconstruction, Construction, and Pavements
(720) 963-3247

Concrete Materials

Robert Conway
FHWA Resource Center
(202) 906-0536


FHWA Pavements website

Innovation Spotlight: Targeted Overlay Pavement Solutions (TOPS) (2:55) 06/21


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Page last modified on July 6, 2023
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