Resources for a better future

Pavement preservation enhances longevity and lowers lifetime costs

Article February 17, 2004
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With more than $1.75 trillion invested in the nation’s highway system, preserving that investment is one of today’s key challenges facing both state and local highway agencies across the country. To meet that challenge, agencies can now call upon a range of new pavement preservation resources. Pavement preservation is applied asset management. It is the planned strategy of treating pavements at the optimum time to maximize their useful life, enhancing pavement longevity while lowering lifetime costs. Preserving our pavements also results in increased safety and higher user satisfaction.

Preservation treatments are not the right fix for every road at any time. Treatments must be carefully selected and must be applied when the pavement is still in relatively good condition, that is with no structural damage. Pavement preservation treatments are generally lower-cost surface improvements and they offer little or no structural enhancement. They do, however, rejuvenate the roadway surface by addressing the effects of environmental aging and minor surface defects before the road deteriorates further and requires rehabilitation or reconstruction, which is much more costly and time consuming.

A significant new resource for highway agencies is the National Center for Pavement Preservation (NCPP), which was dedicated at Michigan State University in Okemos, Mich., in October 2003. Founded by MSU, the Foundation for Pavement Preservation (FP2) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the center will coordinate, administer and conduct fundamental and applied research on pavement preservation. It also will provide hands-on technical assistance and work with highway agencies and others on meeting training and education needs. The center’s resources include a technical library of national studies, specifications and treatment procedures. The center is now providing technical services to several state and local agencies. To learn more about the NCPP and the assistance it can provide look online at

Two new CDs available from FHWA and FP2 also provide a wealth of information on pavement preservation practices that are working nationwide. The first CD, Pavement Preservation 2: State of the Practice, presents policies, guidance and technical information from California, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota. This information ranges from guidelines for statewide preservation programs to examples of innovative funding approaches. The second CD, National Pavement Preservation Forum II: Investing in the Future, contains papers and presentations from the 2001 forum hosted by the California Transportation Department and FP2 in San Diego. The forum was conducted over a pair of two-day sessions, drawing nearly 200 participants to each session. The documents on the CD cover such topics as introducing new pavement preservation products and techniques, establishing partnerships, integrating pavement preservation into pavement management systems and performing education and outreach.

To learn more about the many facets of pavement preservation activities under way in the U.S. today, consult FHWA’s Pavement Preservation Compendium, which presents a range of articles and other reference material on accomplishments to date and future needs. One such need is to take research into effective system preservation technologies to a higher level. In this program area, research has not kept up with the demand for knowledge.

Also available from FHWA and its industry partner, FP2, are a series of pavement preservation checklists that provide step-by-step guidance on the use of innovative pavement preventive maintenance processes. Topics covered in the series to date are:

• Crack seal application;

• Chip seal application;

• Thin hot-mix asphalt overlay;

• Fog seal application;

• Microsurfacing application; and

• Joint sealing of portland cement concrete pavements.

To obtain copies of the CDs, checklists or compendium, contact Steve Mueller at FHWA, 202/366-1557; e-mail: [email protected].

About the author: 
Sorenson is a senior highway engineer in FHWA’s Office of Asset Management.
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