By: Jan R. Prusinski, PE
ll Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, makes a good point. In his op-ed piece in the June 17, 2014 Houston Chronicle "Coping with the 'Texas Miracle'," he states "given the tremendous growth and population boom Texas continues to experience, the stress, strains and demands on our infrastructure are far more acute."
He notes that Texas, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' infrastructure report card, is "dangerously close to failing." In fact, Texas rates a D or less in five of 12 categories, including roads. He pushes for Texas voters to approve the November ballot initiative that would allow annual disbursements from our oil/gas production tax into the State Highway Fund. This is both imperative and common sense. He also supports a modest increase in the State's vehicle registration fee, an end to diversions of gas tax money from transportation projects, and dedicating a portion of the vehicle sales tax for roads. More good points.
If--and hopefully when--the voters and legislators approve and implement these changes, the additional funding needs to be put into long-lasting, high value highway assets. One of the best ways of doing this is through the use of concrete pavements. TxDOT studies have shown that continously reinforced concrete highways need virtually no maintenance for their first 30 years. And these pavements are not "expensive" relative to flexible paving alternatives: Several of the portions of the Central Texas I-35 corridor improvements now being constructed were bid as alternative designs for concrete and asphalt. Concrete won the bids in each and every case.
And TxDOT is expanding the pallet of concrete choices, by allowing more jointed (unreinforced) pavements in appropriate circumstances. These pavements--used in most other states, but less commonly in Texas--can provide decades of high-quality service life for urban arterials, frontage roads, and even some mainline highways. TxDOT is also beginning to utilize innovative concrete pavement solutions, such as roller compacted concrete (RCC). The efficiency of RCC production and placement can make these a competitive--and longer lasting--alternative for heavily-loaded energy sector roads, for instance.
Building with concrete makes sense. It is often the same cost or less expensive than equivalently-designed flexible pavements. It is certainly much lower in life cycle costs, given the 7-10 year overlay cycle needed for most asphalt roads. Why build a critical highway asset that will require significant maintenance in the near term, when a low-maintenance concrete highway can often be built for the same or less cost. That savings in maintenance can be put into expanding infrastructure, not just maintaining it. Another good point.
"This blog was previously posted in the Cement Council of Texas' "Texas Cement and Concrete Blog" (now inactive) and was carried forward to the current blog ("Cementx Pavement Blog") as it contains content that may be of interest to the reader".
The Cementx Pavement Blog seeks to make pavement owners, engineers and contractors smarter about selecting, designing, constructing and maintaining pavements. New blog postings began February 1, 2017; however, we carried over pavement-related blog postings from our older blog, the "Texas Cement and Concrete Blog," which ran until December 2016.