by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern, and Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow
Dr. Walaa Mogawer, UMTC Research Affiliate, Professor at UMass-Dartmouth, and UMass-Dartmouth Research Engineer Alexander Austerman recently published the results of their research study on Experimental Hot Mix Asphalt Projects Placed in Massachusetts. Professor Mogawer discussed this research topic in an Innovative Outlook interview in September 2017.
The study’s primary goal was to monitor roadway projects in the Commonwealth that used different experimental mixtures of asphalt to see which mixtures worked best, with the longest service life, best distress resistance, and easiest placement or construction. As described in the study report, the data gathered through this study can aid “Massachusetts in determining if full-scale implementation of these design methodologies and technologies is cost-effective in the long term. Overall, it is anticipated that well-performing technologies could be separated from poor-performing ones, thus leading to better decisions for future infrastructure.”
This study, conducted over a 5-year period (2012-2017), evaluated the performance of experimental hot mix asphalt (HMA) mixtures used in 12 different road pavement projects around Massachusetts. The 12 projects selected by MassDOT staff for this evaluation each involved new pavement technologies or new specifications. These technologies and specifications were tried for a variety of reasons, ranging from trying to mitigate reflective cracks in HMA layers placed over plain concrete slabs to the construction of environmentally friendly “green roads” by the incorporation of warm mix asphalt and ground tire rubber.
As described in the report, at the start of the study the researchers worked to collect all available data from MassDOT on each of the selected projects, including “all bid contract documents, material specifications, plant reports, construction quality assurance data, ride quality and distress data.”
The study then involved developing monitoring plans for each selected project, some of which had been constructed prior to the study. For each site, condition data were collected periodically throughout the duration of the study to quantify the performance of each mix and the changes in performance over time. Data were collected in the same manner for each project, using standardized techniques from MassDOT’s Pavement Management Section, such as surveying distress and calculating the relevant Pavement Condition Index (PCI). This ensured fair and consistent measurements and evaluations for each site.
The study’s primary conclusions and recommendations were as follows:
- The condition data provided by the MassDOT Pavement Management Section provided critical data required to be able to evaluate the performance of monitored projects over an extended period of time.
- The tested alternative technologies and specifications generally provided acceptable performance in terms of rutting, cracking and ride quality. If the projects continue to display acceptable levels of performance over time, it was suggested that final specifications be developed so that that same mixtures and strategies can be used in the future.
- For future road paving projects involving new technologies, it was recommended that a monitoring plan be developed and implemented before the start of these projects. This would allow for a more comprehensive collection of data regarding the technologies’ performance and cost-benefit results over time and assist MassDOT in making more informed decisions when developing project specifications.
The final study report by Dr. Mogawer and Mr. Austerman can be viewed at this link. This research was funded through the MassDOT Research Program with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds.