Highway project tests concrete and asphalt

An experiment on a section of Route 30 in Wayne County, Ohio, will test the long-running competition over which pavement is better – asphalt or concrete.

Along the 8-mile stretch of highway, the eastbound lanes will be paved with concrete, while the westbound lanes will be paved with a high-tech asphalt product called Perpetual Pavement. Perpetual Pavement uses several layers of hot mix on top of a durable bottom layer that resists tensile strain, which stops cracking at the base.

The pavement test was not a deliberate experiment, but one that was developed out of indecision. Originally, the Ohio Department of Transportation had chosen to use all concrete to pave the $42 million expansion project. But, according to ODOT spokesman Ryan Lazolier, the department discovered the decision was based on some false information. The DOT then decided to use Perpetual Pavement. But after an extended debate, the department finally compromised by using both kinds of pavement.

Both the concrete and asphalt industries, however, are considering the project a test to show which pavement makes a better highway in the long term.

“If you look at pavements over a 50-year basis, concrete is always less expensive to maintain in the long run,” Tom Norris, executive director of the Ohio Concrete Construction Association, told The Business Journal of Milwaukee.

According to the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association, however, Perpetual Pavement can last half a century with proper maintenance.

To test how each pavement performs, a $250,000 research grant from the Federal Highway Administration will pay for Ohio University to study and compare the surfaces. The study will measure several factors, including durability, skid resistance, construction and maintenance costs, construction time, tire noise levels and sub-grade moisture.