Highway longevity

News January 26, 2001
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When subjected to the punishing traffic and climate conditions in northeastern Illinois, highways last about 20 years before th

When subjected to the punishing traffic and climate conditions in northeastern Illinois, highways last about 20 years before they need to be replaced–conventional highways, that is. The state of Illinois is hoping to break the convention and extend the life of its roads to 40 years by adopting a new pavement design.

The 40-year pavement was inspired partly by European pavement designs. "We’re always hearing about, ‘Why aren’t our roads here like the European roads,’" said Mike Monseur, deputy director of public affairs at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The state’s new pavement design, like European road pavement, is thicker than the 20-year pavement, but takes into account northeastern Illinois’ different soil and climate conditions. According to Monseur, "We took the best of that [European design] and tried to apply it to what fits better here."

Three miles of Interstate 290, also known as Route 53, from Devon Avenue to Higgins Road will be replaced with the new pavement, as well as a stretch of I-270 from Route 157 west to the I-55 merge. The repaving work is scheduled to start in late 2002.

IDOT estimates that the 40-year pavement will cost about 50% more than the conventional, 20-year pavement.

The new pavement will consist of a compacted dirt sub-base, a crushed rock base at least 1 ft thick, a 4-in. layer of asphalt and 13-14 in. of reinforced concrete. The 20-year pavement design uses a different type of crushed rock as the base layer, a couple of inches less concrete and slightly less reinforcing steel in the concrete.

Monseur said the new roads will be carefully monitored. If they hold up–and if the taxpayers of Illinois are willing to pay a little extra–then IDOT will likely use the same design in repaving jobs in other high-traffic areas of the state.



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