Better Roads Staff
“The important thing is to keep the incompressibles out of the joint,” he says. Incompressibles include foreign objects that can clog joints and prevent the slabs from flexing as temperatures change and cause the panels to expand and contract. “By keeping joints sealed, you keep out the material that can cause blow-ups,” says Galehouse. “Seals also help protect the pavement from water seeping into the base and creating a ‘pumping’ action that forms voids in the subbase and cause cracks and even breaks in the panel.”
Joint seals typically last 10 to 12 years before leaks appear, says Galehouse.
Does prevention pay off with concrete roads? “If we take good care of our concrete roads with the tools we have today,” says Galehouse, “they will last far beyond what we have come to expect — over 50 years for good concrete.”
Coping with Our Times
There are still pavement managers in America who give their worst pavements first priority in budgeting, Galehouse notes, and their systems are suffering the most from the diminished budgets of the Great Recession.
“In good times or bad, the strategy that makes the most sense is to first keep your good pavements good — your dollars go further and your system stays stronger,” says Galehouse. “Then you keep your marginal pavements from deteriorating any further — to minimize safety concerns and the cost of the ultimate repair. And then you rehabilitate bad pavements as dollars allow, starting with safety concerns.”
Galehouse concedes that today’s tight budgets constrict everyone, but those pursuing sound management strategies that stress prevention will outperform the others, he says.
“Agencies that follow an asset management approach will come out of this cycle in good shape,” he concludes.
Larry Galehouse is a licensed professional engineer and a licensed professional surveyor. His experience includes tenure with an engineering consulting firm and with a large state DOT. In 2003, he helped found the National Center for Pavement Preservation located at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich. Galehouse has been a leader in pavement preservation initiatives within AASHTO, NACE, FHWA and TRB. Contact and learn more about the National Center for Pavement Preservation at pavementpreservation.org.