Pave of the future. Maine Asphalt Pavement Association follows mission of education in a fast-changing industry.
By Kathryn Buxton
To hear Ted Crooker tell it, it all began with Superpave. Crooker, one of the founders of the Maine Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) and vice president of Harry C. Crooker & Sons, credits the paving system for helping to spur a revolution of new technology and innovation in the industry. “Paving – and the whole construction industry – has become so specialized,” said Crooker, and that, in turn, has increased the need for education. That is why a handful of leading Maine paving contractors decided to establish MAPA seven years ago.
“So much goes into paving state jobs these days,” said Frank Carroll Jr., of F.R. Carroll, Inc., a concrete and asphalt paving operation out of Limerick. The firm was an early MAPA member and remains a strong supporter of the organization. Carroll said that Superpave really marked the advent of a major wave of innovation in the industry. “We have better tools to do a better job with these days,” said Carroll who sees MAPA as an important way to bring all the parties to the table and to discuss how new techniques and innovations can be incorporated most effectively on the job. Not so simple
The genesis for this changing focus in paving goes back to 1987 and the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP). SHRP was a $150 million, five-year research effort funded by the Federal Highway Administration to improve the durability and performance of the nation’s roads. While the program looked at all kinds of roadway materials and maintenance – including concrete materials, structures and pavement maintenance practices and various asphalt paving techniques – a major outcome of the study was the development of the Superpave system.
“Superpave” stands for “superior performing asphalt pavements.” Superpave developed over five years and rolled out during the early 1990s. MaineDOT was an early adopter of the Superpave system. By 1998, Maine was one of 17 states that wholeheartedly implemented the system. That year, the state used the Superpave system to specify and build 100 of its large-scale asphalt paving projects. Today, Superpave is fully integrated into the department’s highway and bridge deck paving program.
Still, some Maine municipalities have not yet updated their maintenance programs to reflect the new standard. While the name “Superpave” implies a single, one-size-fits-all solution, it really is a complex system of specifications, design methods and asphalt prediction models that determine the hot mix used on a particular paving project. Even within those seemingly tight parameters, there can be significant variations that affect the performance of a particular paving project. Superpave can be a coarse or a fine mix (the national trend is toward a finer mix). On the contractor’s end of the equation, a multitude of factors play major roles, from the binder used, to the temperature of the mix and to the position of the roller behind the paver. Much also depends on the equipment that contractors use and how effectively that equipment is used.
Ted Crooker said that having access to the latest information and newest techniques can significantly extend the performance of an asphalt paving project. “Knowing what’s out there and how to use it really makes a difference,” said Crooker.
Knowledge is power
A primary goal of MAPA is to provide a forum where contractors, suppliers and state and municipal officials can come together to talk about issues, learn about advances in the industry and find mutual solutions to the challenges of paving in a cold climate. The group has held partnering sessions with MaineDOT to address quality control issues and other industry concerns. MAPA also hosts an annual seminar in the spring every year, just before the paving season begins. The sessions, led by nationally recognized pavement experts, is a great opportunity to catch up on the latest techniques and other innovations in the industry. The seminar has become a “must-attend” event in the paving community. Last year nearly 200 attended, some traveling from as far away as Newfoundland and New Brunswick, Canada. This year, MAPA is adding a third day of speakers tailored to municipal issues, and MAPA hopes to attract more public works personnel to the event. The lead speaker will be John Ball of Top Quality Paving & Training, a New Hampshire based consultant who has worked on projects throughout the country. He will be joined by Jeff Richmond of Astec Industries’ mobile paving division and Chuck Deahl of BoMag Americas. “We call ourselves the three amigos and we represent the full spectrum. I’m really looking forward to the question and answer session,” said Ball, who recently joined the MAPA board of directors. One key session will feature a top-to-bottom exploration of aggregate production and how asphalt mix is manufactured. MAPA Secretary/Treasurer Larry Hutchins of SemMaterials LP thinks this will be of particular interest to public works personnel who often haven’t had the chance to look behind the scenes. Hutchins, an MBTA board member, believes knowledge is power, and the sessions also will give municipal employees involved in road maintenance a better understanding of pavement processes that should help as they prepare to put their 2008 town paving projects out to bid.
“Making the right decision at the right moment can save a town a lot of money,” asserted Hutchins. He noted the MAPA event gives attendees the tools they need to make those critical decisions. MAPA’s new Executive Director Charles Banks also believes there’s a lot of value in the informal atmosphere of the seminar that can turn lunch or coffee breaks into in-depth question-and-answer sessions. “The speakers we bring in have worked on projects all over the country – and the world – and to be able to ask questions and talk one-on-one with these people is really amazing,” said Banks.
Where the paving industry goes in the future, all agree, will be largely dependent on building stronger partnerships between the officials in charge of maintaining the state’s public roads and the industry that paves those roads. Nationally, good communications on both sides of the street have led to new ideas and policies that are showing great promise. Jim Scherocman, another nationally known paving consultant who has spoken at past MAPA seminars and consulted with MAPA on partnering issues, sees several significant trends on the horizon. “RAP is gaining a lot of attention,” said Scherocman. “That stands for ‘reclaimed asphalt pavement,’ and a lot of states, where good aggregate material isn’t as abundant as it is in Maine, are looking at that as a way of saving money.”
He said “warm mix” where asphalt is produced and placed at lower temperatures is another trend getting attention. While proponents talk about its lower energy costs and lower emissions, there is some concern that all the moisture may not be removed from the aggregate during the drying process due to the lower mixing temperature. He warns that the jury is still out on the product and that long-term testing in colder climates like Maine has yet to be completed. One of the most promising trends is the use of warranties, a concept that originated in Europe and now is being used on jobs in several states, including Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado and Michigan. With pavement warranties, the government agency or municipality determines the design of a project, but leaves the contractor to implement the design using best practices. The contractor guarantees the quality and performance of the pavement it builds for between one and 10 years, depending on the design and type of the project.
“It’s like design-build – it really brings out the best in the process and gives contractors the opportunity to be efficient and do what they do best. That can be hard to do under the old spec process,” said Scherocman, where contracts can have an enormous amount of superfluous detail, sometimes right down to the size of the roller required. The practice is still in its formative stages, but the early reports are that it has helped states save money and get better performance from warrantied projects.
“Most states have been very happy with the results,” said Scherocman who has consulted on warrantied projects in several states. He estimates some states now warranty as much as 75 percent of all of their major asphalt paving contracts.
MAPA’s Hutchins said that it is by sharing newer ideas like recycling and warranties that the process in Maine will improve. “That’s the goal – to get the best possible product and in the end everyone benefits; it’s good for the state, it’s good for the towns, it’s good for the taxpayers and that’s good for the contractors,” said Hutchins. Frank Carroll agrees and said that MAPA is there to help the state and the paving industry rise to the challenge. “The main thing is education and training and to be a voice in the industry,” said Carroll. “We’re here to find the best, most efficient and cost-effective ways to build good roads for people to drive safely over.”
Maine Asphalt Pavement Association
“To encourage and promote the safe and environmentally sound use of bituminous asphalt products throughout the State of Maine. MAPA is an advocate for a unified industry voice and provides a forum for advancing teamwork and the education process within the asphalt industry, our clients and the driving public, and through this proactive process, provide the best, most economical, enhancements to Maine’s transportation infrastructure.”
The big event
5th Annual Spring Paving Seminar, March 26-28 at Verrillo’s Convention Center in Portland. A must-attend event for state and municipal employees, engineers, architects and paving contractors. Learn about the latest techniques and trends in aggregate properties and other aspects of the paving process.
For more information
Visit www.maine-apa.org or call MAPA ExecutiveDirector Charles Banks at 207-838-1379.