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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / February 1996

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-SA-96-013
Date: February 1996

Hot-Mix Asphalt Course Helps Engineers Gear Up for Superpave

The Superpave system is bringing changes to the conventional method of hot-mix asphalt (HMA) pavement design and construction. To help the highway industry adapt to the Superpave system and improve its HMA construction techniques, the National Highway Institute offers a training course for construction engineers and field inspectors involved in planning, constructing, and inspecting HMA pavement projects. The purpose of the course is for the construction team to develop a partnering approach that will enable them to make consistent, accurate decisions regarding materials, construction techniques, and other factors affecting a pavement's performance and cost.

The course focuses on the entire HMA construction process, beginning with the delivery of the asphalt mix to the job site, through laydown and compaction, and including quality control/quality assurance (QC/QA). Topics include mix design philosophy, materials delivery, aggregate and binder design, HMA placement, mix design methods, troubleshooting, compaction, and QC/QA procedures. To help participants gear up for the Superpave system, instructors discuss the transition from an empirical mix design procedure to a performance-based one. The emphasis is on how to use these specifications, equipment, and test methods in the field. Troubleshooting exercises illustrate typical field problems to emphasize recommended practices in HMA construction.

The 2.5-day course, presented by Advanced Technology Science Engineering Research under a contract with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), FHWA, and industry. Combining lectures and problem-solving workshop sessions, the course provides participants with a uniform, consistent, practical knowledge of pavement design, materials, production, and construction.

Danny Gierhart, who supervises the asphalt mix design lab in the materials division of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, attended the HMA course in December 1995. He says he took the course to broaden his understanding of the asphalt paving process from beginning to end and to learn how the transition to the Superpave system will affect that process.

"I especially wanted to learn more about what happens to the mix when it leaves the lab,"says Gierhart. "After taking the course I understand more about the different types of machines, how they work, and how to solve problems that may come up."

Ogden Babson, executive director of the South Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association, had the HMA course taught in South Carolina four times last year, and he has scheduled three additional courses this year. The courses are arranged for an equal number of contractors and State highway department engineers.

"It used to be that highway agency engineers and inspectors went to their workshops and contractors went to theirs, and then conflicts would arise because different methods were taught. With this course, both sit in the same room and hear the same system, and now a degree of uniformity is beginning to develop," says Babson. He says this uniformity is especially critical in today's economy, where engineers are assuming more responsibility much earlier in their careers than in the past.

"This was the first time I saw the whole HMA construction process taught in one course--it's the best training package I've seen in my 29 years in the highway industry," says Babson.

The HMA construction course can be conducted on-site for requesting highway agencies. Courses are limited to 40 people (State and local highway agency fee is $4,500 for each course). To request the course, call Lynn Cadarr, course scheduler, at 703-235-0528 (fax: 703-235-0593). For more information about course content, call Pete Parsons, course coordinator, at 703-235-0529 (fax: 703-235-0593).

The National Highway Institute (NHI) is the technical training division of the Federal Highway Administration and serves as one of the primary offices for the transfer of new technology, both nationally and internationally.

Courses may be sponsored by Federal, State, and local highway and transportation agencies within the United States, as well as Local Technical Assistance Program centers, associations, consulting firms, private industry, universities, and other national and international entities engaged in highway work.

To request a copy of the NHI course catalog, call 703-235-0519 (fax: 703-235-0593).

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