This month, just so many asphalt wins ... seriously, it’s a lot

March 2, 2020

This column published as "Just Silly with Success" in March 2020 issue

The ubiquity of asphalt road maintenance and reconstruction methodology is lost on no one. 

Not to underplay the means and methods, but there tend to be few surprises. This is not a criticism, nor is it my throwing shade at those whose working lives are devoted to the construction, care, and longevity of our asphalt road network. Quite the opposite. Asphalt roadwork is positively replete with success stories.

In this issue, as we have done in years past, we are devoting a solid chunk of our editorial coverage to the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s annual Quality in Construction Awards. Each year the folks at NAPA cooperate with Roads & Bridges Media to offer a look at some of the best asphalt work across the nation, and this year they went above and beyond. The comprehensive list of awardees ran to the hundreds of pages—far more than a single publication could hope to feature between its covers.

Traditionally, we have chosen two or three projects and gone deep on them, but I began to wonder whether this approach has been, rather than something advantageous, perhaps limiting, if in an inadvertent way. 

This might be an odd analogy, but bear with me: I attend the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting each year. A terrific event, literally bursting at the seams with information and insight—by which I mean there are more than 40 concurrent sessions occurring at any given time. Which means that in order to bear witness to one, I have to necessarily miss exponentially more. This is both a challenge and frustration—and I found that this year, the sheer volume of QIC awardee projects was much the same.

Therefore, as you make your way through this issue, you will find—rather than a pair of exposés on a sliver of the asphalt pie—a quicker, punchier, but broader grab at nearly a dozen projects the RB editorial staff found to be exemplars of success. We hope that this new approach to our coverage of these awards will offer you a somewhat wider view of asphalt construction and application success.

Hawaii’s Pali Highway was in the midst of a 7.5-mile reconstruction when the unthinkable occurred: A pair of landslides impacted the roadway and forced the Hawaii DOT to find a solution that would preclude such events from negatively impacting this already difficult corridor again. After a few design iterations, HDOT settled on a two-part system to protect the public from potential landslides happening hundreds of feet above the town-bound lanes of Pali Highway. The first part was based on an attenuator system to catch and dissipate the momentum of falling debris. The second part was an 80-ft-long rock shed structure extending the existing town-bound tunnel. Hawaii Asphalt’s Jon Young breaks down precisely how they got out from under the mud on page 12.

Finally, California’s Highway 1, commonly known as the Pacific Coast Highway, commonly brings up images of a smooth, breezy escape, but there’s a sizable stretch of it that is pretty pedestrian, though no less depended upon. Jeff Roberts of VSS International walks us through how Caltrans saved the road before it was too late. Happy reading!

About The Author: Budzynski is senior managing editor of Roads & Bridges.

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