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The Asphalt Problem /
Unprotected asphalt will eventually ravel and wear down requiring replacement
Asphalt pavements such as roads and parking lots are continually being constructed. Unfortunately these surfaces are not lasting as long as they used to due to the quality of materials used to create the binder that makes up asphalt. Many of us remember pavements lasting 15, 20 years or more with little to no maintenance. In February, 1995, Road and Bridges magazine reported that "The average service life of an Ohio road is 8.2 years." This information was taken from an Ohio Department of Transportation study that monitored roadways and maintenance. Bottom line? Asphalt overlays are more common necessary in current times to keep asphalt surfaces safe and at a high level of service. But, with the cost of the petroleum materials and labor costs ever increasing – asphalt overlays can be expensive and most of the time budgets are not large enough to do all the work that's necessary.
What shortens asphalt's lifespan?
Traffic
Since 1980, vehicle miles traveled has increased 80%. Many of us commute an hour each way to work. Drop-off and pick-up the kids at day care 15 minutes each way and then go out to eat across town 20 minutes each way and think nothing of it. Yet in the same 20-year period our total number of lane miles has only increased by 4%.

Today there are 40% more registered vehicles that in 1980. This all adds up to a greatly over crowded highway/road system.


Asphalt
Asphalt is not as good as it used to be. Due to technological advances in the refining process more and more of the high value resins and oils have been extracted. These resins and oils have a much higher dollar value alone than in asphalt. They can be used in hundreds of products from plastics, synthetic rubbers, perfumes and cosmetics. The asphalt in our roads is merely the glue that holds the rocks together, the more they refine from asphalt, the poorer the glue, the poorer the road. We are continuously rebuilding and repairing our roads with an asphalt of lower quality which continues to increase in price.

Asphalt pavement is merely rock sand and glue. And in our lifetime little if anything will happen to the rock and sand. However the glue starts out as a flexible binder. It is capable of flexing under load and unfortunately today that time is very short after the placement. We have all seen this as asphalt used to take 3-4 years before reflective cracks would show up. Today we can see this happen in 6 months to a year. especially along the "seams". The asphalt is losing oils and flexibility and hardening in a very short time - Oxidation.


Oxidation
Good design and quality construction can solve the traffic problem easily enough. Therefore, we must focus on the fact that our asphalt binder is not of the quality that it was in the past.

With new refining processes, asphalt is losing resins, which makes it more susceptible to oxidation from the weather. Oxidation happens when oxygen, in the air and water, chemically attacks the asphalt binder causing it to breakdown.

Ultra-violet rays from the sun cause further breakdowns of asphalt making it brittle. The freeze-thaw cycles associated with winter and spring, in some areas, literally tear asphalt pavements apart from the inside out. As much as 60% of the life of asphalt pavements is lost in the first two years through oxidation.


Put it all together
  • TRAFFIC - We are rebuilding and repaving more and more roads due to the increased traffic demands
  • ASPHALT - Asphalt is now made of lower quality material with a higher price
  • OXIDATION - Quicker Oxidation.

And we're trying to do it with a static tax dollar. No one wants more taxes and more waste of tax dollars. Our asphalt pavements are depreciating faster than we can replace them. And most budgets are only half of what is required to keep up.
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