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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / February 2002

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-02-007
Date: February 2002

Pavement Preservation Forum II: Investing in the Future

For the nearly 200 participants of the National Pavement Preservation Forum II, held in San Diego, California, in November 2001, the numbers told the story. The Michigan Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that it has saved more than $700 million since implementing a pavement preventive maintenance program in 1992. In California, the number of lane miles in need of repair on the Nation's most heavily traveled highway system is at its lowest level in 10 years, thanks to an infusion of pavement preservation funds. And in a recent survey, 34 of the 40 highway agencies that responded reported that they have established preventive maintenance programs.

These examples and many more were highlighted in the 3-day conference, which gave participants an opportunity to share success stories, detail challenges, and discuss what comes next. "Many of the issues and challenges we face are the same," said conference cochair Larry Orcutt of the California DOT. He urged conference attendees to ask themselves, "What can I take back to my area of the country? What can I do to make a difference?"

The event, which was a follow-up to the 1998 Forum for the Future, was sponsored by the Foundation for Pavement Preservation (FPP), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the California DOT.

From California to Georgia, pavement preservation is ultimately about "keeping good roads good." It involves the timely application of carefully selected treatments to maintain or extend a pavement's service life. These treatments may include various types of surface seals, thin lift overlays, and crack sealing for asphalt pavements. Treatments for concrete pavements might include crack and joint sealing, diamond grinding, and retrofit dowel bars. The key is to apply the treatments when the pavement is still in good condition, with no structural damage. Placing a treatment too late will result in poor performance, while applying treatments too early can cause other pavement problems and use up funds before they are needed. As keynote speaker Tommy Beatty of FHWA noted, "We must apply the right treatment to the right road at the right time to get the most out of our maintenance dollars."

A primary theme of the conference was the importance of education and awareness as vehicles for promoting pavement preservation. Other keys to success cited by forum participants were:

California is directing more than $50 million to preventive maintenance. "The competition for transportation funds is fierce. We had to demonstrate the benefit of making the investment in preventive maintenance in terms of safety, improved ride ability, and longer lasting pavements requiring fewer and less frequent repairs," said Susan Massey, California DOT's Pavement Program Manager. "We had to tell them it's good business, that it's a good investment." The DOT began its pavement preservation efforts in 1992 and now issues an annual Pavement Condition Report, which it uses to determine high-priority needs. The DOT also developed 10-year pavement goals, which were implemented in 1998. These goals include reducing the backlog of distressed lane kilometers from 22,000 (14,000 mi) to 8,000 (5,000 mi) by 2008.

Preventive maintenance work to date has included applying a 30-mm (1.2-in) asphalt rubber overlay to 241 lane km (150 lane mi) of Interstate 5 in Fresno. The work, which was done by Granite Construction Company, had to be completed in 65 days and come with a 1-year warranty. "We knew it was going to take some additional quality controls to do the project," said Jim Queener of Granite. These measures included performing multiple trial mixes in the lab before work started. Granite also conducted frequent quality control tests while the job was underway. Ultimately, "this was a really successful job," said Queener. The DOT, said Orcutt, found that the overlay "improved the ride dramatically and extended the pavement life by 10 additional years."

Colorado DOT is looking at both improving its pavements and working faster and more efficiently by taking an innovative approach and performing full depth restoration with precast concrete panels. An initial test and evaluation project was conducted on US 287 near Fort Collins, Colorado, in December 2000. Using new technology developed by URETEK USA, three panels, approximately 3.6-m (12-ft) x 4.6-m (15-ft) each, were removed and replaced with custom sized and shaped precast concrete slabs. The site was reopened to traffic the same day. A project was then conducted on I-25 in June 2001 that involved replacing eight 3.6-m (12-ft) x 4.9-m (16-ft) panels in an overnight operation. The site was reopened to traffic by 5:30 a.m. the next day. Colorado is now looking at replacing 44 panels on both I-25 and US 287 this spring using the precast method.

The conference also provided the contractor's view. "Being a preventive maintenance contractor has changed dramatically in the past 25 years," said Michael Buckingham of Strauser, Inc. "Training is an important aspect of preventive maintenance for both the agency and the contractors. As contractors we need to know what the most effective time is to apply preventive maintenance treatments."

Photo of full depth restoration
Full depth restoration is performed on US 287 near Fort Collins, Colorado, using precast concrete panels

Training is also important for the next generation of engineers. A session on education and outreach highlighted the work the University of Illinois is doing, in conjunction with the FPP, to develop a Pavement Preservation curriculum that can be adapted and used by other universities. The material will include lecture outlines, an instructor's guide, and visual aids.

As conference organizers and participants looked at the future of pavement preservation, they noted that challenges exist, particularly as top management priorities change. "As long as you can demonstrate on a daily basis the importance of performing preventive maintenance, you will continue to enjoy public support and the resources to get the job done," Orcutt said. Documenting the benefits of preventive maintenance can help maintain that support, he noted. Data must be accurate and it should also be accessible. Surmounting the challenges and carrying forward with the progress made to date, added conference cochair Jim Sorenson of FHWA, will also require partnerships that share a common vision, increased worker training, additional research into new and improved techniques, and better communication with stakeholders and the public.

For more information on pavement preservation treatments and techniques, contact Julie Trunk of the FHWA Office of Asset Management's Construction and System Preservation Team, 202-366-1557 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: julie.trunk@fhwa.dot.gov; Web: www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/preserv.htm), or Steve Hersey at FPP, 703-610-9036 (fax: 703-610-9005; email: info@fp2.org; Web: fp2.org).

Providing Early Protection for Pavements

"Providing Early Protection" is the theme of a workshop on sealers and binders scheduled for March 1, 2002, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The workshop will explore the history and use of emulsified sealers and binders, as well as current research in this area. Featured topics include evaluating the effectiveness of sealers and binders and calibrating equipment properly. FHWA and FPP are sponsoring the workshop, which is being hosted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. For more information, contact Julie Trunk at FHWA, 202-366-1557 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: julie.trunk@fhwa.dot.gov), or Steve Hersey at FPP, 703-610-9036 (fax: 703-610-9005; email: info@fp2.org; Web: fp2.org).

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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