A friend insists we could build roads that never need fixing.
“They (the government, pavement engineers, transportation departments) could do it, but they won’t because they’re making too much money and too many people would lose jobs,” I was told.
She is not the only person who has shared this belief with me. She’s convinced there’s a product or process out there that makes asphalt and concrete completely impervious to weather and weight, eliminating forever the unpleasantness of potholes and inconvenience of detours.
I say there may be, but it probably costs an arm and a leg. Americans fund street construction and maintenance through taxes and/or tolls, and they famously oppose requests to pay more of either.
In March, Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (I love that name) generated a ton of publicity by asking two vendors to demonstrate their quick-but-permanent pothole patches for the media.
Roadstone Production LLC’s Aquaphalt (www.aquaphalt.com), which also works on concrete, and Unique Paving Materials’ UPM Green (www.uniquepavingmaterials.com) work similarly: The pliable layers beneath the filler’s hard surface move with the pavement , maintaining the integrity of the bond between the two during expansion and contraction. A video of the press conference on The Boston Globe’s website shows representatives placing their product in actual potholes.
The products come in a bag or bucket, and the only tool they require is a rake. They cost more than asphalt, but the city figures they’re worth it since crews won’t have to re-patch.
We’ll find out in September when this experiment ends. Exposing the repairs to a Boston winter would be a truer test of the products’ viability. But at any rate, we’ll keep you apprised on whether the city’s public works department will invest further in either one.
In the meantime, what products and/or processes are you trying out for the first time in your never-ending quest to provide drivable roads? Join the Public Works Magazine LinkedIn group and comment with the product’s name and why you’re using it.
We’ll share people’s feedback in an upcoming issue.
P.S. The press conference also demonstrated Hole Patch (http://holepatchllc.net/), a temporary patch-in-a-bag that you just plop into the pothole. Developed by four Case Western Reserve University students, the dilatant gel hardens whenever a force, like a car passing over it, is applied in a process called shear-thickening. When the pressure subsides, the bag’s contents return to a gel (prompting someone to comment, “It’s Oobleck!”)
The material supposedly supports the weight of any size vehicle. If you try it out, please let us know if it does.