Tag Archives: MnROAD

Recycled Asphalt Pavement Use is Increasing

MnDOT has long been a leader in the use of recycled asphalt pavement or RAP. Much of the nation’s current use of RAP in hot mix paving asphalt is based on the methods first used in a 1978 project that reconstructed the streets in what is now the 3M campus in Maplewood.

Subsequent MnDOT projects using as much as 80 percent RAP in hot mix paving revealed significant pavement performance problems, according to Curt Turgeon, state pavement engineer.

Currently, MnDOT asphalt paving specifications allow 30 percent RAP in overlay projects and 20 percent RAP when crack resistance asphalt cements are used in new or reclaimed pavements.

For economic and environmental reasons, Turgeon said MnDOT has renewed interest in increasing the use of RAP. Work includes trials of varying percentages in hot mix, trials at MnROAD of cold central plant recycling, and continued use of cold in-place recycling and full depth reclamation.

Increase in hot mix percentages

In District 6, a 13-mile section of the 30-mile Hwy 52 resurfacing project contains 40 percent RAP on the wide outside shoulders. The mixture contains proprietary additives to potentially assist in the rejuvenation of the RAP.

Tom Meath, District 6 materials engineer, said the higher percentage is being used because of the abundance of RAP available.

“This project allows the contractor to use up stockpiles of pavement from this and other projects and reduces the amount of new material needed, while not diminishing the quality of what’s used in the traveling lanes,” he said.

Meath said there are counties and cities in District 6 already using 40 percent RAP, but this is the first time MnDOT is trying it.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to use more RAP,” he said. “That’s a lot of money sitting there when we remove an asphalt pavement.”

Cold central plant recycling

This year’s MnROAD reconstruction, funded by the National Road Research Alliance, contains test sections of cold central plant recycling. This process uses 100 percent RAP mixed in a standard plant at ambient temperatures using an emulsified or foamed asphalt cement. The result is a product that is not resilient enough be used as a top surfacing so the test sections will receive either a standard hot mix overlay or a double chip seal.

Cold in-place recycling

The resurfacing portion of the Hwy 110 project east of I-35E and I-494 in Mendota Heights and Inver Grove Heights will use 100 percent recycled asphalt as the base layer of pavement.

Tim Clyne, Metro pavement and materials engineer, said using 100 percent saves on rock and asphalt costs, trucking costs and time. Since the material is reused with the cold in-place recycling process, the result is a more variable product than the material produced at the plant. Hot mix will be used as the top surface.

“It’s not a new technology, but this is the first time Metro has used the 100 percent RAP in at least 30 years,” he said. “It provides a long-term pavement solution for an extended pavement life.”

See a video of cold in-place recycling, which shows a milling machine, a machine that screens and crushes oversize materials and then mixes in an asphalt emulsion, an asphalt tank and an asphalt paver and roller.

Full depth reclamation

Full depth reclamation uses equipment often described as a rototiller for pavements. The asphalt pavement and some of the existing base is ground together in place. Multiple passes of the reclaimer are often used. The final pass may include the addition of a binder such as asphalt emulsion, foamed asphalt, cement or lime. The result is an aggregate base with the old crack pattern completely erased.

“Hot mix overlays on full depth reclamation base have shown excellent performance compared to a typical mill and overlay project,” said Turgeon.

Economic and performance benefits of these techniques are well understood.  Until recently, the environmental benefits of using materials in place instead of hauling off to a plant haven’t been well documented. MnDOT participates in the Recycled Materials Resource Center pooled fund project now housed at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

In June 2017, the RMRC completed an analysis of nine paving projects that documented an average of 22 percent overall savings and 20 percent savings in water usage.


This post was written by Sue Roe and was originally published on MnDOT’s Newsline on  Aug. 23, 2017. 

MnROAD Breaks New Ground

In June, MnROAD, the only cold-weather accelerated pavement testing facility of its kind in North America, begins construction on its third phase of research since 1994, the first time MnDOT has rebuilt in partnership with other states.

Dozens of new experiments are planned along MnROAD’s test tracks in rural Albertville: the high-volume original Interstate-94 westbound (built in 1973), the mainline I-94 westbound (originally opened in 1994) and an adjacent low-volume road closed track.

Six states and numerous  industry partners recently formed the National Road Research Alliance (NRRA) to co-sponsor  the reconstruction.

NRRA-prioritized research will support state and local needs, including effective use of fiber-reinforced concrete, asphalt overlays of concrete pavements, cold central plant recycling and concrete partial depth repairs to name a few.

MnROAD has two 3.5 mile test segments on Interstate 94 and one closed 2.5-mile low-volume road.
MnROAD has two 3.5 mile test segments on Interstate 94 and one closed 2.5-mile low-volume road.

“The advantage of having these test  sections at MnROAD is we can take  bigger risks and push the envelope in terms of mix designs and layer thicknesses for both asphalt and concrete  layers that could not be done on a public roadway,” MnDOT Research Operations Engineer,   Dave Van Deusen said.

Forensic analysis of failed cells
Many old test cells will be dug up.  Before any reconstruction starts, however, each test section that is being reconstructed will receive a final forensic study. This allows researchers a look at each layer to see the distress that has occurred over the years—and make the final analysis of why it failed. There are always a lot of theories on the causes of what actually failed, but until the forensic is performed, there isn’t proof on what happened. These findings will help build longer-lasting pavements in the future.

The bid letting date for this year’s construction is April 28, but plans were made available for contractors on March 31. This should give the projects more exposure and generate more interest. Construction begins June 5 and continues until November 2017.

Focus Areas

  • HMA overlay and rehab of concrete and methods of enhancing compaction – States are looking for longer lasting HMA overlays of concrete. New mix designs were developed to promote long-term performance, including how reflective cracking effects can be minimized through design or other joint treatment.
  • Cold central plant recycling – Other states have used reclaimed asphalt pavement stockpiles into plant mix base course mixes (layers below the wear surface) to effectively recycle these materials in a controlled mix design. How can these layers best be used and what type of surface mix or chip seal can be placed on top?
  • Fiber reinforced concrete pavements – Nationally, states want to get a better understanding of the beneficial use of fibers in concrete pavement layers. Is it worth the cost? How can it be best used in both thin city streets and higher volume roadways? Can it be used in new construction and in concrete overlays? The research will provide the answers.
  • Long-term effects of diamond grinding – Each state has aggregates that have been used in concrete pavements that are considered reactive aggregates. Questions arise as to whether diamond grinding might accelerate deterioration in these pavements. What types of topical sealers can be used to treat the surface after the diamond grinding will also be tested.
  • Early opening strength to traffic – What effect does heavy traffic loading have on the long-term performance of full-depth concrete pavement, as well as fast–setting repairs? Test sections will be loaded by a pickup truck in one lane early enough to produce shallow ruts in the surface. In the other lane, a loaded 18-wheeler will travel over the new concrete immediately after it sets, and then sequentially every six hours up to 30 hours. The long-term effects of these early loadings will then be evaluated.
  • Optimizing the mix components for contractors – What effect do low-cementitious content mixes have on long-term performance and constructability of concrete pavements?  Two low cementitious content mixes will be studied to give agencies a better understanding of cost savings. Can these savings be achieved without significantly affecting long-term performance?
  • Compacted concrete pavement for local streets – Compacted concrete pavement is a form of roller compacted concrete that has a standard concrete pavement surface texture. The RCC industry has been successful in Michigan and Kansas constructing CCP pavement on local streets.  This research will determine if the texture that is accomplished is durable in harsh freeze-thaw climates.
  • Recycled aggregates in aggregate base and larger sub-base materials – States continue to look for effective ways to recycle materials into unbound bases. This research will add to MnROAD’s understanding of recycled bases and what seasonal strength values can be used for advanced mechanistic designs–and how they are affected by size/gradation.
  • Maintaining poor pavements– Road owners continually have less funding to maintain their roadway systems. What practices should be used for stabilizing both hot mix asphalt and Portland cement concrete roadways when longer-term repairs cannot be done due to funding levels?
  • Partial depth repair of concrete pavements – Agencies continually seek improved materials and methods for the repair of concrete pavements. In this study, up to 15 innovative concrete pavement repair materials will be evaluated on the concrete panels of the westbound I-94 bypass parallel to the MnROAD mainline.
  • Thin overlays-Experimenting with very thin overlays could provide a real benefit for a lot the roads currently out there. The premise is that with thin overlays, the ride can be smoother and the life of older roads can be extended.

“We don’t often get to reconstruct random roads these days, and when we do, we have much better specifications for low temperature cracking. By the same token, we have to maintain all those older roads built before we had performance grade binders,” said Dave Van Deusen, Materials and Road Research Lab principal engineer. “We will be doing this makeover on an original section of MnROAD built back in the 90’s.”

In one experiment, there is a head-to-head comparison of thin overlays on two sections of road. One section has a thick base and subbase under the asphalt. The other has a heavy asphalt top with very little base.

Van Deusen says if they can get an extra five years of life out of road using thin overlays, he would be pleased. Often, he admits, he is surprised by how long these “short-term” fixes actually last.

Stay up-to-date on construction by signing up for email alerts at mndot.gov/mnroad.  

Partner States Get First Look at Minnesota Road Experiment

Walking along a half-mile segment of Co. Rd. 8 near Milaca last month, materials engineers from around the country got a first look at a shared test site for pavement preservation.

Nearly 60 one-tenth mile sections of Co. Rd. 8 and nearby Hwy 169 were recently treated with various combinations of fog seals, chip seals, crack seals, scrub seals and microsurfacing and a number of thin overlays. Data will be collected from these experimental test roads for three years and compared with the results of a similar experiment in Alabama, where the same test sections were also built on a low- and high-volume roadway, to see which techniques are the most effective for preserving road life.

“Evaluating pavement performance in both northern and southern climates will provide cost-effective solutions that can be implemented nationwide,” said Ben Worel, MnROAD operations engineer.

Photo of Barry Paye, Wisconsin DOT chief materials engineer; and Tim Clyne, MnDOT Metro District materials engineer.

From left, Barry Paye, Wisconsin DOT chief materials engineer, and Tim Clyne, MnDOT Metro District materials engineer, participate in a discussion about future road research needs. Photo by Shannon Fiecke

Nineteen states, which are co-funding the study through MnDOT’s road research facility (MnROAD), were in town Oct. 26-27 for a joint meeting with the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Auburn, Ala. In addition to touring test sections built this summer near Milaca and at MnROAD’s permanent test track in Albertville, the group reviewed preliminary research results and discussed ideas for new experiments.

MnROAD began two joint research efforts with NCAT last year to advance pavement engineering issues that affect both warm and cold climates. In addition to determining the life-extending benefits of different pavement preservation techniques, the partnership has also built test cells to evaluate which asphalt cracking prediction tests best predict future pavement performance. This second study will help state DOTs improve the quality of asphalt mixes, so roads hold up better through harsh winters, leading to less thermal cracking and fewer potholes.

Click here to learn more about the MnROAD-NCAT partnership.

A look at five great environmental research projects

To mark Earth Day 2016, MnDOT Research Services is taking a glance at five stellar examples of current research projects at MnDOT that involve pollution control, wetland mitigation, road salt reduction and new ways of recycling pavement.

1: Reducing Road Construction Pollution by Skimming Stormwater Ponds 

Temporary stormwater ponds with floating head skimmers can remove clean water from the surface of a settling pond.

Soil carried away in stormwater runoff from road construction sites can pollute lakes and rivers.

Stormwater settling ponds provide a place for this sediment to settle before the water is discharged into local bodies of water. However, since stormwater ponds have limited space, a mechanism is needed to remove clean water from the pond to prevent the overflow of sediment-laden water.

MnDOT-funded researchers designed temporary stormwater ponds with floating head skimmers that can remove clean water from the surface of the settling pond, using gravity to discharge water into a ditch or receiving body.

The study, which was completed in spring 2014, identified five methods for “skimming” stormwater ponds that can improve a pond’s effectiveness by 10 percent. MnDOT researchers also created designs for temporary stormwater ponds on construction sites with the capacity to remove approximately 80 percent of suspended solids.

These designs will help contractors meet federal requirements for stormwater pond dewatering. Researchers also determined how often a pond’s deadpool must be cleaned, based on watershed size and pool dimensions.

2: Roadside Drainage Ditches Reduce Pollution More Than Previously Thought  

Photo of roadside ditch
Stormwater infiltration rates at five swales were significantly better than expected based on published rates.

Stormwater can pick up chemicals and sediments that pollute rivers and streams. Roadside drainage ditches, also known as swales, lessen this effect by absorbing water. But until recently, MnDOT didn’t know how to quantify this effect and incorporate it into pollution control mitigation measures.

In a study completed in fall 2014, researchers evaluated five Minnesota swales, measuring how well water flows through soil at up to 20 locations within each swale.

A key finding: grassed swales are significantly better at absorbing water than expected, which may reduce the need for other, more expensive stormwater management practices, such as ponds or infiltration basins.

This could save MnDOT and counties significant right-of-way and construction costs currently expended on more expensive stormwater management techniques.

3: Could Permeable Pavements Eliminate Road Salt Use on Local Roads? 

Robbinsdale
Even with little or no road salt, a permeable pavement like this porous asphalt in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, collects little slush and snow in the winter because it warms well and remains porous enough to infiltrate surface water effectively.

Road salt is used for de-icing roadways during winter months, but can have a negative impact on the environment.

This research, which was just approved for funding through the Minnesota Local Road Research Board in December 2015, will investigate the reduction in road salt application during winter months that can be attained with permeable pavements, while still providing for acceptable road safety.

Some initial investigations (see previous study) suggest that road salt application can be substantially reduced, even eliminated, with permeable pavement systems. The proposed research will investigate this hypothesis more thoroughly, and further document the reduction in road salt application that can be expected with permeable pavement.

4: Highway 53 Shows Potential of Using Road Construction Excavation Areas For Wetland Mitigation

IMG_2764
This photo from spring 2015 shows that wetlands have begun to take hold along Highway 53.

Road construction in northeast Minnesota often causes wetland impacts that require expensive mitigation. However, borrow areas excavated for road construction material can be developed into wetland mitigation sites if hydric vegetation, hydric soils and adequate hydrology are provided. Fourteen wetland mitigation sites were constructed north of Virginia, Minnesota along the U.S. Trunk Highway 53 reconstruction project corridor and evaluated for wetland.  The sites were established with the goal of mitigating for project impacts to seasonally flooded basin, fresh meadow, shallow marsh, shrub swamp, wooded swamp, and bog wetlands. All but one of the sites consistently meet wetland hydrology criteria.

The sites contain a variety of plant communities dominated by wet meadow, sedge meadow, and shallow marsh. Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) condition categories for the sites range from “Poor” to “Exceptional.”

According to the research report published in March 2016, these sites have shown the potential for creating mitigation wetlands in abandoned borrow pits in conjunction with highway construction. Adaptive management, particularly water level regulation, early invasive species control, tree planting, and continued long-term annual monitoring can make mitigation sites like these successful options for wetland mitigation credit.

5: Recycling Method Could Give Third Lives to Old Concrete Roads 

2016-14 Image
This photo shows a cold in-place recycling equipment train in action.

MnDOT already extends the lives of some old concrete highways by paving over them with asphalt instead of tearing them up. Now MnDOT hopes to add a third life for these old concrete roads by using a process called cold in-place recycling to re-use that existing asphalt pavement when it reaches the end of its life.

Cold in-place recycling (CIR) uses existing pavements, without heat, to create a new layer of pavement. It involves the same process of cold- central plant mix recycling (which is being employed by MnDOT for the first time on two shoulder repair projects this year), but it is done on the road itself by a train of equipment. It literally recycles an old road while making a new road.

CIR has been in use in Minnesota for 20 years, but only with hot-mix asphalt (HMA) over gravel roads. The purpose of a new study, which was approved for funding in April 2016, is to validate Iowa’s promising new practice using CIR on bituminous over concrete.

In this research project (see proposal), MnDOT will use cold-in-place recycling to replace the asphalt pavement on a concrete road and then evaluate it for several years, comparing it also with control sections.

Along with the potential of a better service life, the cost of CIR is much lower than new hot mix asphalt (HMA). Therefore, a 20-percent to 30-percent price reduction per project may be realized.

MnDOT, Alabama center team up for national pavement research

The nation’s two largest pavement test tracks are planning their first-ever co-experiments.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Road Research Facility (MnROAD) and the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) began discussing a formal partnership last year and have now asked states to join a pair of three-year research projects that will begin this summer.

Representatives of the test tracks are meeting next week in Minneapolis at the 19th Annual TERRA Pavement Conference. They said the partnership will develop a national hot mix asphalt cracking performance test and expand the scope of existing pavement preservation research at the NCAT facility in Auburn, Alabama, to  include northern test sections in Minnesota.

MnROAD plans to build test sections at its facility and also off-site on a low- and high-volume road, which may include concrete test sections if funding allows. These Minnesota test sections will supplement 25 test sections built by NCAT on an existing low-volume haul route in 2010 and an off-site high-volume test road planned for this summer in Alabama to assess the life-extending benefits of different pavement preservation methods. Both agencies have also been developing performance tests to predict the cracking potential of asphalt mixes, and they will now work together on that research as well.

“We will collect and analyze the data in similar ways, and I think we’ll have a greater appeal nationally, as we cover a range of climate conditions,” said MnROAD Operations Engineer Ben Worel.

Participation in the pavement preservation study is $120,000 per year for the initial research cycle, which will drop to $40,000 after three years; the cracking study will run three years at $210,000 per year.  Alabama will be the lead state for this effort.

State departments of transportation are asked for commitment letters this month if they are interested in joining either study, even if they do not have SP&R (State Planning and Research) dollars available at the time. Participating agencies will get to design the scope of the research and be kept advised of the ongoing findings, so they can benefit early from the project. Initial planning meetings will be done through a series of webinars in March and April of this year with participating agencies.

At a January 8 webinar, speakers said the research will help states determine how long pavement preservation treatments will last.

“Many DOTs have really well-designed and well-thought-out decision trees, where they can take pavement management data and end up with a rational selection of pavement alternatives. But the issue of extending pavement life is the really big unknown, because references provide a broad range of expected performance,”  NCAT Test Track Manager Buzz Powell said.

Another benefit is that states can learn how pavement treatments hold up in both hot and cold climates.

“It’s 14 degrees right now in Mississippi. It rains about every three days, freezes and then thaws,” said Mississippi Chief Engineer Mark McConnell. “So we need to know how pavement preservation is going to work in the north as well.”

For additional information, contact Ben Worel (ben.worel@state.mn.us) at MnROAD or Buzz Powell (buzz@auburn.edu) at NCAT.

mnroad_ncat
Aerial views of the pavement test tracks at MnROAD (left) and NCAT (right).

Partnership planned for nation’s top pavement testing facilities

The nation’s two largest pavement testing centers are planning to partner in order to better leverage research performed at their cold and hot-weather facilities.

MnROAD, located in Albertville, Minnesota, and its southern U.S. equivalent, the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Auburn, Alabama, are full-scale test tracks that evaluate different types of pavement material under real-life conditions using semi-trailer truck and live interstate traffic.

Each facility has a history of evaluating the performance of pavement preservation treatments, including chip sealing, micro-surfacing, crack sealing and thin overlays. To address needs in both northern and southern climates, similar test sections would be developed at each facility to address national issues.

“By working together we can maximize the potential for each track,” said MnROAD Operations Engineer Ben Worel. “A closer relationship between NCAT and MnROAD is a logical progression in developing and evaluating new sustainable technologies, pavement systems and construction methods that lead to safer, quieter, lower-cost and longer-lasting roads.”

A test track at the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Alabama, MnROAD's hot-weather equivalent.
A test track at the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Alabama, MnROAD’s hot-weather equivalent.

The partnership idea was introduced to federal officials earlier this month at a national pavement performance conference in Minneapolis. Final details must still be worked out.

One of the workshops at the event discussed the proposed partnership between MnROAD and NCAT. Further talks are expected at the end of October.

“NCAT is thrilled about the opportunity for a partnership with MnROAD to address pavement research needs at a national level,” said NCAT Director Randy West. “Bringing NCAT and MnROAD results together will expand the climate base, loading distribution and other important pavement factors.”

Pavement conference

Pavement engineers from around the nation gathered Sept. 2 to 5 for the Midwestern Pavement Preservation Partnership forum and the SHRP2 R26 Workshop for the Preservation of High-Traffic-Volume Roadways, which featured tours of MnROAD, Minnesota’s cold weather pavement testing facility.

Conference participants also reviewed the latest preservation techniques being developed for high volume roads. MnROAD’s chip sealing study, which demonstrated that highways with an average daily traffic (ADT) of 58,000 can be successfully chip sealed, was especially attention-grabbing for agencies who don’t chip seal on roads with more than 2,000 ADT.

A national panel of speakers included Michael Trentacoste, director of the federal Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (pictured in top photo), who discussed Federal Highway Administration’s support of pavement preservation research and implementation.

With about 160 people in attendance over four days, MnDOT Materials Engineer Jerry Geib said the conference was successful in sharing the benefits of pavement preservation techniques with other state DOTs and federal highway officials who want adopt new practices to help alleviate budget constraints.

MnROAD celebrates 20th anniversary, prepares for next research phase

Researchers from around the world rely on Minnesota’s pavement testing center, MnROAD.

Minnesota alone saves at least $33 million each year, thanks to quantifiable advances made at MnROAD. The annual nation-wide savings is thought to be even larger: $749 million.

Established in 1994, MnROAD partners with the FHWA, industry and dozens of other states and countries to conduct research on two live test tracks in rural Albertville.

No other cold-weather facility offers such an array of pavement types with thousands of electronic sensors recording both environmental changes and dynamic truck testing.

“If not for MnROAD, many of our projects wouldn’t be nearly as successful,” said Highway Research Engineer Larry Wiser of the Federal Highway Administration.

At an Aug. 6 open house, this one-of-a-kind research facility celebrated 20 years of finding ways to make roads last longer, perform better and cost less.

Two separate road segments contain 51 test cells, with different combinations of surface materials, aggregate bases and subgrades, as well as variations in structural design and drainage features.

MnROAD consists of two unique road segments located next to Interstate 94.
MnROAD consists of two unique road segments located next to Interstate 94.
Annual Savings

MnROAD’s initial research on pavement life and performance (from 1994 to 2006) reduced maintenance costs, repairs and motorist delay.

In the second phase of research, MnROAD reconstructed almost 40 test cells for more than 20 different studies. The benefits derived from this work is estimated to be worth nearly nine times what the studies cost – and that’s just the benefit for Minnesota.

“We’re excited for the third phase of research, which will be mainly focused on maintenance and rehabilitation,” said MnROAD Operations Engineer Ben Worel. “We’ve seen the benefits of our past research and expect the same in the future.”

MnROAD’s facility includes:
– A test section of I-94 carrying live traffic
– A low-volume roadway that simulates rural road conditions
– Thousands of sensors that record load response and environmental data.

Chip sealing: not just for local roads anymore (video)

Chip-sealing — spraying an asphalt emulsion over existing pavement and then covering it with fine aggregate — is a cost-effective alternative to resurfacing asphalt pavements. Traditionally, however, it has only been used on rural and low-volume urban roadways.

During a recent visit to MnROAD, we filmed a road crew chip-sealing a test section on I-94 and spoke with MnDOT Research Project Supervisor Tom Wood, who explained why chip sealing can also be an effective treatment for high-volume roadways.

*Note: This story was updated on 08/12/2014 to clarify that the chip sealing shown in the video involves spraying an “asphalt emulsion” rather than “hot liquid asphalt,” as stated in an earlier version of this post.

What it’s like to drive a 40-ton truck in circles for science (video)

The only way to test pavements is to destroy them — slowly and painstakingly, one moving vehicle at a time. At MnROAD, the state’s world-renowned pavement research facility, the bulk of this monotonous-but-necessary work is performed by live traffic passing through Albertville on I-94. But on the facility’s 2.5-mile low volume road test track, which simulates rural road conditions, more controlled methods are preferred.

Doug Lindenfelser is one of several MnROAD employees who take turns driving an 80,000-pound semi tractor trailer in laps around the closed-loop low-volume track. The truck is loaded to the maximum allowable weight limit on Minnesota roadways. As it passes over the facility’s 23 distinct low-volume test cells, an array of sensors capture data on the pavement’s performance, which researchers then use to design stronger, longer-lasting roads. The truck only drives on the inside lane; that way, the outside lane can be used as an “environmental lane” to compare  damage caused by loading  vs. damage caused by environmental factors.

He has other duties as well, but on a given day, Doug might drive the truck 60 or 70 times around the low-volume road test track. It might not sound very exciting, but as Doug explains, some days his job can be quite interesting. We interviewed him on camera during a recent visit to MnROAD. The resulting video is available above and on our YouTube channel.

For those who might be wondering, all this diligent destruction of pavement has paid off. It is estimated that MnROAD’s first phase of research (from 1994-2006) has resulted in cost savings of $33 million each year in Minnesota and $749 million nationally. Cost savings from its second phase (2007-2015) are being calculated, and the facility is scheduled to enter its third phase in 2016.

Learn More:

Peer Exchange: Pavement researchers face similar issues, financial pressures

Soaring construction costs and a rapidly aging infrastructure will require states to revolutionize how they maintain their roadways — but without each other’s help, they won’t be successful.

That was a key message from pavement researchers last week at a MnDOT-hosted peer exchange event, where pavement experts from around North America shared their ideas and research experiences.

“You’ve got to partner with other states, the FHWA and industry,” said Research Engineer Steve Bower of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “We can’t go it alone anymore.”

Researchers at the event reviewed recent pooled-fund studies conducted at MnROAD, MnDOT’s innovative pavement testing center, to review successful implementation strategies, develop common practices to calculate benefits and help prioritize research topics for MnROAD’s  core 2016 research and reconstruction.

The pavement engineers gathered for the event face similar problems in their home states, as demonstrated by the seven pooled fund projects that were discussed. These included developing a better understanding of pavement damage caused by oversized farm equipment, knowing when to chip seal a roadway, developing a test to predict asphalt cracking , creating a national design method for concrete overlays of asphalt roadways and improvements in diamond grinding of concrete pavements.

MnROAD leading the way

State research departments often lack the time or resources to focus on innovations that could reduce future maintenance costs. If not for Minnesota leading the effort on many of these topics and providing a top-notch research facility, the peer exchange attendees said much of this research just wouldn’t happen.

“We don’t have a closed-loop facility with all these different test sections that MnROAD has; no one does,” said Larry Wiser of the Federal Highway Administration’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.

Researchers came from Missouri, Maine, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, California, Ontario, Wisconsin, Indiana and Washington for the three-day workshop.
Researchers came from Missouri, Maine, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, California, Ontario, Wisconsin, Indiana and Washington for the three-day workshop.

WisDOT Chief Materials Management Engineer Steven Krebs said the research done at MNROAD on the impact of modern farm implements on pavement was invaluable in drafting new state legislation. WisDOT was able to quantify the amount of damage done to the pavement and use the data to dispute mistruths and  misinformation. The state is now working with counties on possible remedies and weight-limit enforcement techniques.

Whereas Minnesota has taken the lead on studying such issues, it is now asking fellow states to not only participate in future such studies, but to also partner in the operations at MnROAD.  At the peer exchange, the response to this idea — especially from states closest to Minnesota — was positive, despite everyone’s lean budgets.

Peer exchange participants said more effort and funding is needed to implement research findings, which FHWA officials said costs significantly more than the research itself.

Past research also needs to be more accessible and there should be better sharing of information, particularly online, they said.

“This (peer exchange) gave us ideas to take back. Our research budget is getting tighter. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘You do a part of it and we’ll do a part of it,’ ” said California transportation researcher Joe Holland.

Further Resources

2014 Peer Exchange – Presentations