Concrete pavement pioneer dies

One of the country’s best-known paving engineers and an internationally recognized authority on the design and construction of concrete pavements for roads and airport runways died Jan. 4.

Gordon Keith Ray, 86, was employed by the Portland Cement Association for 38 years, directing the Skokie, Ill.-based trade group’s paving and transportation department and later the public works division. He also taught courses in pavement design and construction at Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin.

As a young civil engineer at PCA, Ray teamed up with Kansas State University professor Gerald Pickett in 1949 to create the Pickett and Ray Influence Charts, a scientific guide to designing concrete pavements to withstand increasingly heavy modern trucks and aircraft. When this research demonstrated concrete pavements outperformed competing asphalt, Ray and other PCA engineers toured highway departments to promote the use of concrete in the newly authorized interstate highway system and other roads. Ray traveled to all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 19 other countries and wrote numerous technical papers to promote concrete pavement to public works agencies, engineering schools and others. Eventually, 65 percent of interstate highways were built of concrete.

Ray’s Influence Charts and their successors guided the design of roads and civilian and military airports during much of the post-World-War-II construction boom. U.S. and international highway authorities often sought his counsel on concrete pavement technology.

He is survived by his wife, Betty, three children and six grandchildren.