Nav: Home

UNH research finds thicker pavement is more cost effective down the road

July 10, 2019

DURHAM, N.H. - As the summer months heat up, so will the asphalt and other materials used to make roads. Pavements, which are vulnerable to increased temperatures and excessive flooding due to sea level rise, can crack and crumble. Climate change can be a major contributor and as greenhouse gas emissions continue, which scientists say have caused an increase in global temperatures since the mid-20th century, these issues are projected to accelerate. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire say because of this one of the best ways to extend the life cycle of roads, and keep future costs down, is to increase the thickness of asphalt on certain roads.

"It's all about being strategic with the maintenance of our highways and byways," says Jo Sias, professor of civil and environmental engineering. "Just like a regular oil change can help extend the life of a car, our research shows regular maintenance, like increasing the asphalt-layer thickness of some roads, can help protect them from further damage related to climate change."

In their study, recently published in the journal Transportation Research Record, the researchers looked at the seasonal and long-term effects on pavement life, like climate-change-induced temperature rise and higher groundwater levels due to sea level rise and heavy rains. They looked at the changes in season length, increased flooding, average temperatures, projected temperatures and resilience based on those temperatures. As global temperatures continue to rise, road conditions will shift. The winter pavement season is projected to end by mid-century, replaced by a longer fall season. Pavement damage, now seen mostly in the spring and summer, is projected to be more distributed throughout the entire year. Based on their analysis that looked at the wear and tear of roads, the researchers determined that a 7% to 32% increase in the asphalt-layer thickness might be the best way to maintain the service ability of some roads.

"For agencies and towns, it is a balancing act to repair roads so we're trying to find some reasonable action that can be taken now to help manage their infrastructure," said Sias. "If global warming continues then we know temperatures will rise and pavement doesn't respond well to increased temperatures. The hope is to find some answers now so cities and towns can plan for the future."

The researchers recognize that increasing the asphalt thickness to certain roads can be an added expense for cities and towns but they point to considerable future savings of between 40% and 50% if done now rather than later. Along with the rise in cost of materials, there could also be other expense increases down the road like project planning, design, and construction. Environmental impacts could also be costly with rough pavements adding to increased greenhouse gas production, which has the potential to accelerate climate change.

While the study looked specifically at the impact of the changing pavement seasons and the increase in temperatures and flooding at a site in coastal New Hampshire, the researchers say the approach has the potential to be applied to most roads and highways both nationally and globally. The adaptation approach, of calculating the pavement layer thickness required to maintain a safe road reliability level, could provide the guidance to address the effects of rising temperatures and changing seasons on those byways.
-end-
Funding for this research was provided by National Science Foundation (NSF), New Hampshire Sea Grant, N.H. Department of Transportation and N.H. Department of Environmental Services.

The University of New Hampshire inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top-ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. As one of the nation's highest-performing research universities, UNH partners with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, and receives more than $110 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.

University of New Hampshire

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...