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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / June 2008

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-014
Date: June 2008

Meet The Little Book of Quieter Pavements

It's the little book about a big topic. The Little Book of Quieter Pavements, recently released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), takes readers through the basics of sound and noise, traffic noise, and tire-pavement noise, as well as alternative strategies for designing and building quieter pavements. An accompanying MP3 file supplements the publication, expanding the reader's learning experience. Notations of corresponding track numbers for the MP3 file are included throughout the Little Book, so that tracks can be played at the appropriate time.

"With traffic noise pollution a growing problem, transportation agencies are increasingly looking for solutions. The Little Book is designed to be useful for a broad audience, including pavement engineers, environmental engineers, and those outside of the transportation field," says Mark Swanlund of FHWA's Office of Pavement Technology.

As population density in urban and suburban areas grows and traffic increases, demands to reduce traffic noise also increase.

As population density in urban and suburban areas grows and traffic increases, demands to reduce traffic noise also increase. The traditional approach of constructing noise barriers can cost $2 million or more per 1.6 km (1 mi), and the barriers are not always a good solution. The barriers are not aesthetically pleasing and are often ineffective on rolling terrain or arterial streets where gaps are required for side streets or driveways, since sound can bend over the top and around the ends of the barriers. Engineers have focused in recent years on developing alternative pavement types and surfaces that reduce the noise generated from tire-pavement interaction, which is a major source of traffic noise. Much research has been conducted in Europe and Japan, where development is denser and residents often live in closer proximity to major transportation corridors. International scanning trips conducted by FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have studied tire-pavement noise abatement techniques used in other countries, but little has been implemented in the United States to date. "Today, however, there is a renewed demand for quieter pavements throughout the United States," says Swanlund.

The Little Book introduces readers to the basics of sound and noise and answers questions, including "How do we hear?," "What is a decibel?," "What is Hertz?," "How does sound travel?," and "How is sound perceived?"A section on tire-pavement noise looks at the complex mechanisms that produce noise, while another section on measurements highlights different methods of measuring noise, including wayside noise measurements, source noise measurements, and invehicle measurements. Also examined is how pavement texture, porosity, and stiffness affect noise.

The Little Book's final section on quieter pavements profiles the pros and cons of both asphalt and concrete alternatives for constructing quieter pavements, including porous asphalt pavements, stone matrix asphalt, dense-graded asphalt mixtures, and diamond ground and drag (constructed with burlap and artificial turf) concrete surfaces, as well as exposed aggregate and porous concrete pavements. This section also looks at criteria to consider when choosing a quieter pavement.

Also included is a resource section with information on recommended references and useful Web sites.

The Little Book of Quieter Pavements (Pub. No. FHWA-IF-08-004) is available from the Federal Highway Administration R&T Product Distribution Center, HRTM-03 (email: report.center@dot.gov). The accompanying MP3 file will be available this month on FHWA's Office of Pavement Technology Web site (www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement). For more information about The Little Boo k or quiet pavements, contact Mark Swanlund at FHWA, 202-366-1323 (email: mark.swanlund@fhwa.dot.gov). To learn more about highway traffic noise, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise. For more information on pavement technologies, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement.

To learn more about how some State departments of transportation are addressing the demand for quieter pavements, visit the following Web sites:

Arizona: www.quietroads.com

California: www.dot.ca.gov/hq/env/noise

Washington State: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/QuieterPavement

Figure 6. Photo. Cover of FHWA's The Little Book of Quieter Pavements.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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