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NCAT Asphalt Pavement: A Critically Important Aspect of Infrastructure Resiliency

The topic of resilience has begun circulating in many different fields and forums. The transportation community is no different, with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) hosting their second transportation resilience conference in 2019, the 2nd International Conference on Transportation System Resilience to Natural Hazards and Extreme Weather, bringing together researchers and practitioners to discuss this important topic. The asphalt paving community needs to join this discussion and work specifically to understand the benefits and appropriate applications of asphalt pavement in preparation of, or in response to, natural disasters or changing climate conditions.


Asphalt pavements inherently possess resilient features, though the typical pavement engineer/designer does not necessarily think of these characteristics through the lens of resilience. The rapid constructability of asphalt pavements enables a producer to become a “first responder” after a disaster; if a pavement is damaged due to an extreme event, it can be quickly restored through fast construction. Tools and methods such as warm mix asphalt, adaptable materials (e.g., polymer modified binders to resist high temperature or traffic load deformation), porous asphalt systems for storm water management, and the ability to recycle materials that have been compromised during an event as a means of compensating for disrupted materials supply chains enhance the resilience of the system. Design approaches such as perpetual pavement design can be used to enhance the resilience of critical corridors. In addition to designing perpetual pavements for new construction, existing routes can be elevated to a perpetual pavement status through typical maintenance schedules (i.e., add 2 inches of HMA to the current surface elevation of the pavement as opposed to milling and replacing 2 inches of HMA).

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