Asphalt Industry Shows Off 'Perpetual Pavement'

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - The asphalt industry showed off a "perpetual pavement" Tuesday as an easily resurfaced alternative to traffic-clogging highway reconstruction.

The concrete industry derided the idea as "perpetual payment" that wouldn't stand the test of time.

About 200 contractor and public highway agency engineers attended technical briefings on a three-layer asphalt mix that is being demonstrated along a two-mile stretch of Interstate 77 between Akron and Canton.

The term "perpetual pavement" was coined by the industry to promote the hot asphalt mix now being tested in several states as a longer-lasting alternative to traditional two-layer asphalt.

"It's a whole new design concept," said Fred F. Frecker, president and executive director of Flexible Pavements, a Columbus-based trade group of asphalt contractors.

By adding a third, 4-inch bottom layer of flexible asphalt made with extra petroleum and densely compacted to resist truck wear and tear, only occasional resurfacing would be needed instead of time-consuming highway reconstruction from the roadbed up through the pavement, Frecker said.

That would allow nighttime repaving and cut highway construction delays, the trade group said.

The top layer should last 15 years, with contractors typically guaranteeing a good driving surface for seven years, he said. He compared the cost of resurfacing the pavement to a fresh coat of house paint.

The concrete industry, which handles a fraction of the road paving work of the asphalt industry, said the pavement wouldn't live up to its name.

"If you still have to resurface it every 10 years, you're tying the next generation's hands to buy more oil to get more asphalt so they can resurface the roads," said Tom Norris, executive director of the Ohio Concrete Paving Association.

Norris predicted that the historic price advantage that asphalt enjoys over concrete could be wiped out if highway departments and cities take into consideration future repaving costs when deciding between asphalt and concrete.

Concrete roads can last 40 to 50 years, according to Norris. He said concrete lost ground to asphalt as interstate highways built with concrete were retopped with less costly asphalt.

Frecker said asphalt typically is 20 percent cheaper in initial construction.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)