Questions, Answers & Information about Asphalt

Q: What is asphalt made of ?
A: Asphalt pavement is an engineered material made from a controlled mixture of stone/gravel and asphalt cement

Q: How long will asphalt pavement last ?
A: Many years, when the project is done properly.Don't trust pavement to just any contractor. Know what you're getting (or aren't getting). It's reported that the portions of Interstate 90 in Washington State have been in place since their original construction more than 35 years ago with no rehabilitation for structural reasons. The entire New Jersey Turnpike is asphalt. Built in 1935, it has never had a failure in the pavement structure. The chief engineer for the turnpike expects it to last another 50 years.

Q: Is asphalt pavement a safe driving surface ?
A: Yes! Asphalt pavements can be designed and constructed for maximum skid resistance. Research has shown that asphalt roads tend to be quieter than concrete roads, leading to less driver fatigue. Other safety features of asphalt:
Asphalt is impervious to de-icing salts, chemicals and is unaffected by winter road safety maintenance.
Asphalt pavements can be designed with “open-grade” surfaces that allow water to drain through the surface layer   of the pavement, thus reducing splash and tire spray, and increasing tire-road contact during wet weather.

Q: Is asphalt pavement used only for roads ?
A: No Asphalt has a variety of uses, including:
Paving running tracks, airport runways, greenway trails, bicycle and golf cart paths, basketball and tennis courts,   cattle feed lots, poultry house floors, barn floor's and greenhouse floors.
Lining railbeds for transit systems .
Creating sea walls, its strength, water proofing capability and inertness to seawater helps prevent the eroding action   of the tides and waves.

Q: How environmentally safe are asphalt plants ?
A: Asphalt plants must meet rigorous standards established by the EPA and other agencies, but often the individual plants set their own standards that are more demanding. Recent improvements in asphalt production have made the industry even more environmentally friendly. In fact, after a six-year study, the EPA announced in 2002 that asphalt plants are no longer on its list of industriesconsidered to be major sources of hazardous air pollutants.

Q: Is asphalt pavement recyclable ?
A: Yes! Asphalt pavement is 100 % recyclable and can be made to perform better the second or even third time  around. In fact, it is the most recycled product in the United States, both in terms of tonnage (73 million tons, more than any other material) and in terms of percentage (80 percent of reclaimed asphalt pavement is recycled, a higher percentage than any other substance). That compares to significantly lower percentages for aluminum cans, newsprint/papers, magazines, plastic and glass beverage containers. Asphalt roads are removed, re-crushed, mixed with additional aggregate and fresh asphalt cement, remixed and placed back on the road. 
The hot mix asphalt industry also uses the following recycled materials:
slag from the steel-making process, roofing shingles, sand from metal casting foundries, and rubber from old tires. 


Common Myths About Asphalt

The production of asphalt causes cancer.
MYTH: There is no scientific evidence that the very low levels of emissions from an asphalt facilitypose's any health risk to humans.

Asphalt plants are dirty and bad for the environment.
MYTH: The asphalt industry works hard to be a good citizen. It has spent millions of dollars to develop the most advanced technology to keep the environment and their communities clean. Asphalt plants have adopted stringent emission standards that exceed those of the EPA. Emission control systems also trap and remove fine sand and dust particles. As a result, the EPA has deleted asphalt plants from its list of sources of hazardous air pollutant

Asphalt pavement doesn't last a long time.
On the contrary, well-designed,well-built asphalt pavements last many years. They can be maintained with only periodic replacement of the surface layer. And with the newer heavy-duty surface pavements, it is possible for overlays to last more than 15 to 20 years. That's why it's called the “perpetual pavement”.
Case in point: The heavily traveled asphalt New Jersey Turnpike was built in 1951, but has never had a failure in the pavement structure. The chief engineer expects it to last another 50 years as stated above in asphalt Q & A.

Asphalt is a costly way to pave roads.
Actually, asphalt is the most cost-effective way to build and pave roads, both in the actual material costs of traffic delays. Numerous studies have proven the initial cost of asphalt pavement is usually less than concrete. And when major thoroughfares are closed for weeks of repairs or construction, business and individuals stand to lose a lot of money – potentially million's of dollars. With asphalt paving, construction and rehabilitation can be performed at night so roads are open the next morning, saving time and money. And because asphalt can be recycled into new roads, it saves taxpayers more than $300 million a year.  

The History of Asphalt

The story of asphalt begins thousands of years before the founding of the United States. Asphalt occurs naturally in both asphalt lakes and in rock, asphalt is a mixture of sand,  limestone, and asphalt.
The ancient Mesopotamians used it to waterproof temple baths and water tanks. The Phoenicians caulked the seams of their merchant ships with asphalt. In the days of the Pharaohs, Egyptiansused the material as mortar for rocks laid along the banks of the Nile to prevent erosion, Also the Infant Moses' basket was waterproofed with asphalt.
625 B.C.was the first recorded use of asphalt as a road building material in Babylon. The ancientGreeks were also familiar with asphalt. The word asphalt comes from the Greek “asphalto” meaning secure, The Romans used it to seal their baths, reservoir's and aqueducts.
In 1595 the Europeans exploring the New World discovered natural deposits of asphalt. Sir Walter Raleigh described a “plain” (or lake) of asphalt on the island of Trinidad, near Venezuela. He used it for re-caulking his ships.

In the early1800s Thomas Telford built more than 900 miles of roads in Scotland, perfecting the method of building roads with broken stones. His contemporary, John Loudon McAdam, used broken stone joined to form a hard surface to build a Scottish turnpike. Later, to reduce dust and maintenance, builders used hot tar to bond the broken stones together, producing “tarmacadam” pavements.

In 1870 Belgian chemist Edmond J. DeSmedt laid the first true asphalt pavement in the U.S. In Newark New Jersey DeSmedt also paved Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. - using 54,000 square yards of sheet asphalt from Trinidad Lake. The Cummer Company opened the first central hot mix production facilities in the U.S. The first asphalt patent was filed by Nathan B. Abbot, N.Y. In 1871.

In 1900 Frederick J. Warren filed a patent for “Bitulithic” pavement, a mixture of bitumen and aggregate (“bitu” from “bitumen” and “litchic” from “lithos”, the Greek word for rock). The first modern asphalt facility was built in 1901 by Warren Brothers in East Cambridge, Mass.

In 1907 production of refined petroleum asphalt outstripped the use of natural asphalt. As automobiles grew in popularity, the demandfor more and better roads led to innovations in both producing and laying asphalt. Steps toward mechanization included drum mixers and portland cement concrete mechanical spreaders for the first machine-laid asphalt.

1942 During World War ll, asphalt technology greatly improved, spurred by the need of military aircraft for surfaces that could stand up to heavier loads.

In 1955 The National Bituminous Concrete Association (forerunner of the National Asphalt Pavement Association or NAPA) was founded. One of the first activities: a Quality Improvement Program, which sponsored asphalt testing at universities and private testing labs.

1956 Congress passed the Interstate Highways Act, allotting $51 billion to the States for road construction. Contractors needed bigger and better equipment, since then Innovations include electronic leveling controls, extra-wide finishers for paving two lanes at once and vibratory steel wheel rollers for proper compaction. 



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