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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / January 1997

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-SA-97-019
Date: January 1997

Superpave System Gets a Boost in South and Central America

The quest for more durable asphalt pavements doesn't stop at the U.S. border, as the recent Latin American/U.S. Asphalt Technology Conference clearly demonstrated. The conference drew more than 500 engineers, technicians, and managers from highway agencies and the highway industry in 25 countries to Austin, Texas, in October, where they were joined by their peers from 39 States.

The Superpave system was a featured item on the 5-day agenda. The countries represented at the conference came seeking ideas for improving the ways they design, build, and maintain pavements. For most of these countries, this involves closely watching the path and progress of Superpave implementation in the United States. The conference sessions included a description of the Superpave system and an update on the status of Superpave implementation in the United States and Latin America.

The conference was distinguished by its emphasis on practical solutions, not research. One of the highlights of the week was a tour of the South Central Superpave Center, located at the University of Texas at Austin, where participants got a first-hand look at the equipment needed to design asphalt mixes using the Superpave volumetric mix design procedures. The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) mobile asphalt laboratory was also on site.

The highway industry was well represented at the conference, with three dozen companies exhibiting and demonstrating products.

"People were pleasantly surprised by the presence of so many industry representatives," says conference coordinator Sharon Campos of the University of Texas at Austin. "The conference showed that there was a great need to exchange information and to develop contacts between highway agencies and industry."

The idea for the conference was conceived by Ross Martinez of FHWA's regional office in Fort Worth, Texas, who had previously worked in FHWA's Office of International Programs. Martinez collaborated with Tom Kennedy, technical director of the South Central Superpave Center, who had conducted a series of lectures in Uruguay and Chile in 1993. Martinez and Kennedy then enlisted the help of FHWA's Office of Technology Applications.

Greg Speier, a highway engineer with the National Highway Institute and executive director of the Pan American Institute of Highways (PIH) attended the Ibero-Latin America Asphalt Congress meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in November 1995, where he encouraged high-level industry, government, trade association, and university representatives to attend the event in Austin. Meeting participants had been introduced to the Superpave system during a seminar on Superpave conducted by John D'Angelo and Tom Harman of FHWA.

Speier says the Austin conference helped U.S. vendors participate in the boom in infrastructure development in South and Central America. "When a vendor and a buyer come together at one of these events, it takes a lot of the intrigue out of the negotiations," he says. "It gives the private sector a chance to get its foot in the door."

Wilfredo Montenegro, Latin American manager for Troxler Electronic Laboratories Inc., strongly agrees. "I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Austin conference. People are hungry for technology transfer and are eager to exchange ideas," says Montenegro. "Without the conference, I would never have been able to talk with so many people from that many countries."

The next step is to provide more training in the use of the Superpave equipment and test procedures. Kennedy says he has since had several discussions with government, industry, and academic representatives from several South and Central American countries about conducting Superpave training sessions there. And Speier reports that Latin American industry, highway agency, and university staff have been "clamoring" for the Spanish translations of four key publications on the Superpave system.

The conference was hosted by the Continuing Engineering Studies Department of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, FHWA, and PIH. Corporate support was provided by Akzo-Nobel Asphalt Applications, Inc., Brent Rauhut Engineering, Chemcrete International Partnership, Ingersall-Rand Company, Koch Materials Company, Prime Materials & Supply Corp., the Texas Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement Association, and Ultrapave Quality Asphalt Additives.

The conference steering committee, which includes representatives of the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the Texas Department of Transportation, industry, and FHWA, is already working on a 1997 conference. As details become available, they will be announced in Focus.

For more information about the 1996 conference, contact Sharon Campos, University of Texas at Austin (telephone: 512-471-7741; fax: 512-475-7915; email: scampos@mail.utexas.edu).

The Pan American Institute of Highways (PIH) is a network of more than 70 technology transfer centers located throughout the Americas and Spain. One of PIH's projects has been to promote interest in the Superpave system. To that end, the PIH centers in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Venezuela are translating four key SHRP publications on the Superpave system. The publications will be available from the PIH technology transfer centers. For more information on PIH, contact its executive director, Greg Speier>, at PIH headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (telephone: 703-235-0549; fax: 703-235-0593; email: greg.speier@fhwa.dot.gov).

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