“It’s a catch-22 [telling an agency] to go back to gravel, but be prepared to do stage construction – ‘and hopefully you can find the money to eventually get this back to a pavement’ – with base improvement to handle today’s traffic,” says Skorseth.
Blotter, the South Dakota study concluded, is suitable up to approximately 650 ADT. Other options cited by Skorseth include:
incorporating chloride (magnesium or calcium) in to a minimum 2 to 3 inches of the layer, not solely on the surface as traditionally used for dust control;
using geosynthetics as part of the base construction; and
“in somewhat of a lost art,” incorporating a natural binder, usually highly plastic clay, into the top 2 to 3 inches. Bentonite has been used as a natural binder in Montana, western North Dakota and bits of Wyoming, he says.
A Warning Flare
Whether or not they are on the same side of the table as Skorseth in solutions, asphalt paving industry officials share many of the same concerns and observations.
“Many states have had ‘Farm to Market’ programs for quite some time. Their intent in general was to provide higher-quality routes for farmers or ranchers to market places or primary state routes,” says Mike Kvach, the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s vice president, product deployment. “Over the years, changes in the economy, the size of farm equipment and haul loads, etc., have impacted these pavements in various ways. The use and need for the route might have diminished and/or agriculture equipment increased the impact and deteriorated the pavements, and now there just isn’t any dollars to maintain these routes.”
“. . . right now, the DOT and the counties and the cities for that matter are just doing their very best to just hold on by their teeth.”
- Bill Rosener, executive vice president, Asphalt Paving Association of Iowa
That some road agencies are contemplating or perhaps even enacting a back-to-gravel solution “is to me a warning flare from these agencies saying, ‘Let’s put our heads together and see how we can save our roadways,’” says Kvach. “I don’t think any agency wants to take out a perfectly good roadway, but rather, ‘What can we do short of just turning the darned thing into gravel or turning and walking away from it?’ There are other strategies out there, and a lot of the agencies may not be fully aware of all of the strategies available.”
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