Hot Mix Asphalt Technology - May/June 2011 - (Page 36)

Rubble De-Paving a Half-Century of Progress As road funding dries up, many rural road managers can no longer maintain all the paved roads in their systems, but gravel roads present their own problems, including cost-effectiveness, performance, and safety. by Kirk Landers Roads to L A Brown County, SD, paved road succumbs to the elements last year, done in by a combination of severe freezethaw cycles, heavy spring rains and flooding, and heavy wheel loads. Like many rural road agencies, the county lacks the spending power to rebuild many miles of distressed pavements. ate in 2009, many American news organizations picked up an Associated Press feature gleefully titled, “Roll up the pavement: Gravel is making a comeback.” The article detailed an emerging trend in rural counties and small towns that no longer have the financial resources to maintain paved roads and are therefore returning some lane miles to unbound gravel roads. By July, 2010, even news media like the Wall Street Journal picked up on the trend. In “Roads to Ruin: Towns Rip up the Pavement,” WSJ writer Lauren Etter cited examples of de-paving roads in the Dakotas, Michigan, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Experts in rural road management say the trend is national in scope. While the regions and terrain differ, the causes are the same. Rural America is where the country’s legacy of underfunded roads is becoming most visible. “Our total annual highway budget is $7 million,” Jan Weismantal said last year in a presentation to her county road management colleagues in the South Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). Weismantal, the Brown County (SD) Highway Superintendent, estimated that the cost of repairing and maintaining all 650 miles of paved roads in her county would require an estimated $40 million annually. “We can maintain 150 miles of pavement with our current budget,” said Weismantal. She and her staff have defined 150 miles of critical routes that will be maintained as paved surfaces. Maintenance on the other 350 miles of paved roads will be limited to gravel patching—a full-depth reclamation process in which the afflicted section gets new aggregate and is shaped and compacted, but not overlaid. “Brown County has had a bad experience previously with turning asphalt surfaces back to gravel,” says Weismantal. “Public reaction was extremely negative. So no large sections are being milled up and immediately returned to gravel.” In other rural counties the challenges are the same. In Stutsman County, ND, which was featured in the WSJ article, Highway Superintendant Mike Zimmerman has convinced the county to purchase a full-depth reclamation machine to de-pave dozens of miles of rural blacktop that can no longer be maintained. His decision was dictated by economics. Zimmerman’s total pavement management budget last year was about $1.28 million, while the cost of just one reconstruction project – a nine-mile section of Old Highway 10 which was featured in the Wall Street Journal 36 • View past issues of HMAT online at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Hot Mix Asphalt Technology - May/June 2011

Hot Mix Asphalt Technology - May/June 2011
Chairman’s Commentary: Who Knew Asphalt Could Be So Green?
Industry News
Warm-Mix Asphalt: Best Practices
States Stride Ahead With Warm Mix
Roads to Rubble: De-Paving a Half-Century of Progress
NCAT Explains the AMP Tester
Tools for the Trade
Calendar of Events
Index of Advertisers/

Hot Mix Asphalt Technology - May/June 2011