RAP extends road maintenance and construction budgets

As fuel tax revenue disappears in the pandemic, the city of Janesville, Wisconsin is seeing savings and performance benefits

Since the COVID-19 pandemic flared up across the globe and people everywhere are spending less time on the road, the fuel taxes that so many road owners rely on to fund construction projects have evaporated. Many states across the US are reporting steep cuts in fuel tax revenue, significantly delaying or cutting road rehabilitation projects altogether. Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is facing a 40% funding decline as state and local budgets start running on empty.

According to Mike Gribner, administrator for WSDOT, “That basically halved my 10-year preservation plan.”

In Pennsylvania, PennDOT is delaying new construction, significantly reducing resurfacing and sealing projects. Funding mainstays have taken a hit. According to Pittsburgh’s Trib Live, the agency is struggling with how to manage an estimated US$800 million loss of revenue for construction and maintenance, a $100 million reduction in funds for multimodal projects and a $90 million reduction in liquid fuels revenue for local governments.

Given these funding challenges contractors, DOTs and other road owners are looking closely at alternative ways to stretch road rehab budgets now and well into the future.

For years, using reclaimed asphalt pavement has proven to be one effective way to reduce cost while maintaining quality and durability. On average, RAP mix can achieve cost savings of $1.50/tonne compared to standard mixes.

Additional to the cost savings, DOTs can recognise the added values of maintaining mixture quality and durability while using RAP, often at times made possible by a rejuvenator product such as Cargill’s plant-based patented rejuvenator chemistry, ANOVA.

Located in south central Wisconsin just north of the Illinois border, the city of Janesville is responsible for maintaining around 552 centreline km of municipal roadways and alleys that serve a population of 65,000. In addition, the city performs routine maintenance on 18 centreline km of state highway that are within city limits. In 2014 the city of Janesville was rehabilitating its streets at an average of 10 centreline km/year—8.3km resurfaced, and 1.7km reconstructed.

When factoring in the 552km maintained by Janesville, the result is that the city was rehabilitating asphalt pavements every 54 or 55 years on average, according to Lisa Wolf, assistant city engineer for Janesville. “This is a completely unrealistic expectation, especially in our Midwest climate where we have multiple freeze-thaw cycles and older infrastructure within the city that’s already been milled a few times,” she said.

In Wisconsin, the average service life for an asphalt surface is around 18 years for new pavement and 12 years for an overlay, according to Wolf. By the time she joined the city in 2014, the average condition of the city’s streets was declining. The city council decided that more yearly rehabilitation work would need to be done before the overall condition of its streets declined further. If left to fail, the streets would cost even more to reconstruct.