As is painfully evident this time of year, Minnesota’s weather is highly destructive to our asphalt roadways. One of the biggest challenges for transportation practitioners in cold-climate states like ours is low-temperature cracking in asphalt pavements. The distress caused by our extreme weather variations and constant freeze-thaw cycles wreaks havoc on our asphalt streets and highways, causing decreased ride quality, increased maintenance costs and shorter pavement lifespans.
On April 17, the Center for Transportation Studies presented its 2013 Research Partnership Award to the team members of a multi-state, Minnesota-led study designed to combat the problem. The project, “Investigation of Low Temperature Cracking in Asphalt Pavements, Phase II,” was a national pooled-fund study involving six state DOTs, four universities, the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and the Federal Highway Administration. It resulted in a new set of tools — test methods, material specifications and predictive models — that will be used to build longer-lasting pavements.
The project is a prime example of the value and benefits of cooperative research. Each organization brought its own unique strengths and expertise to bear on the problem. The University of Minnesota, led by Professor Mihai Marasteanu, brought its strength in lab testing of binders and mixtures, for example; other universities leveraged their respective expertise in data analysis, statistics and modeling capabilities. MnDOT, as the lead state agency, controlled the finances and kept the research on track, guiding the process through technical advisory panels. MnDOT’s materials laboratory and its unique MnROAD pavement research facility also played a key role in the study.
The above video provides an excellent overview of the project and includes commentary from key MnDOT and University of Minnesota team members. MnDOT is already moving to implement the results. It plans to use the new test procedure on several road construction projects this year. Iowa and Connecticut are among the other states reportedly planning implementation projects.