Greener road construction

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Using recycled material for aggregate not only saves money, it also makes use of a material that would otherwise remain unused. A single lane mile of road constructed with rubber tires will use roughly 2,000 tires and save as much as $50,000 … but putting what would otherwise be considered trash into our roads raises a healthy amount of skepticism [and] because there are few total life-cycle cost analyses available, it will be at least a generation before we know the true impacts of these methods.” –Derek Singleton, Software Advice

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Got an interesting email the other day from Derek Singleton with technology firm Software Advice concerning ongoing efforts to make U.S. roads “greener,” largely by using more recycled materials – such as tires, roof shingles, even old asphalt and aggregate – in their construction.

He penned a thorough blog post on the subject [which you read by clicking here] not only detailing the potential benefits and drawbacks of literally turning “trash” into roadway construction material, but also how some of the highway contractor policies now in use can actually hinder the use or recycled materials as well.

Other authors in the blogosphere have previously noted the potential for cost savings by using recycled materials [Timon Singh wrote a good one back in 2009, for example] and the Federal Highway Administration has maintained a policy position since 2006 supporting the use (where applicable) of recycled materials in highway construction.

[Here’s an interesting video showing how asphalt can be recycled for re-use in road construction, saving time and money for contractors.]

Why the focus now on such “green road construction” efforts? Well, with Republicans and Democrats already at loggerheads over John Mica’s (R-FL) six-year surface transportation funding reauthorization proposal, finding ways to both save money while simultaneously reducing trash being sent to landfills nationwide might not be a bad way to begin generating some bi-partisan cooperation when it comes to road infrastructure policy for our nation.

That's just a thought, of course.

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