Anti-aging roads help reduce disruption and CO2 emissions

A section of dual-carriageway in Northamptonshire is the first in the country to be resurfaced with new materials designed to help roads last significantly longer.

Motorways and major A-roads in the country are expected to be resurfaced every 10 to 12 years. This is due to water, sun and air combined with the weight of heavy traffic causing the surface to deteriorate and crack.

However, laboratory tests have shown that an innovative blend of materials can help extend the life of the road surface without the need for a facelift. Not only does this reduce the need for roadworks, but can lead to lower CO2 emission levels.

Fine blends

Highways England, together with partners Tarmac and Total, has resurfaced a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone, in Northamptonshire, with the new asphalt mix.

The mix is held together by a new bitumen called Styrelf Long Life, which is designed to be more resistant to the elements by oxidising more slowly. This slower process means that the road surface stays flexible for longer, preventing cracks forming.

More durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs could lead to less money needing to be spent on maintenance, lower carbon emissions caused by maintenance work and less disruption for road users.

Sustainable thoughts

Total estimates that getting the asphalt required to resurface a mile of single lane carriageway – not including transport to site and working with it – can produce up to 26.5 tonnes of CO2.

If roads lasted longer, so that two sets of resurfacing could be avoided in a 60-year period, the reduction in asphalt production alone could save the equivalent of the CO2 produced by an average car if it was driven for more than 270000 miles – more than 10 times around the Earth.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition,” commented Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highways engineer.

“The ultimate priority for us is safety so we invest in new technology and materials to keep those using the roads safe. Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”

“These long-life binders will ultimately lead towards our vision of net zero carbon by 2050 by reducing roadworks, saving manufacturing, transport and installation energy and the associated emissions,” added Rick Ashton, market development manager at Total.

“This trial paves the way for enhanced highways asset management and predictive deterioration modelling for Highways England.”

The new material has previously been tested in the laboratories of Total, at Tarmac’s site in Elstow in Bedfordshire and on sections of road in The Netherlands and Germany. The A43 trial is the first time it has been used with high traffic levels in the UK.

Technical experts from Total will regularly measure the performance of the material against an equivalent control section laid at the same time on the A43 before its use is considered elsewhere in the country.

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