Asphalt pavement can last a long time, but it generally does not last forever. Unless it’s perpetual pavement. The concept of perpetual pavement was first articulated in 2000, though the concept had been put into play decades before the term “perpetual pavement” was coined. In short, perpetual pavements are asphalt pavements that are designed and constructed to last as long as possible. For example, in 2001 the Asphalt Pavement Alliance started the Perpetual Pavement Award program. The program gave recognition to the Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and other pavement-related organizations that were using the theory of perpetual pavement to build long-lasting pavements; the first winner was the New Jersey Turnpike, which was a 50-year-old pavement structure in 2001! Explore the theory of perpetual pavement in detail.
Perpetual Pavement Theory
The theory of perpetual pavement is to build a pavement structure using multiple layers so that only the upper layer requires maintenance and replacement; this leaves the base layers in place, which leads to the “perpetual” label as for all intents and purposes, the pavement could potentially stay there indefinitely. Perpetual pavement is also called “long-life asphalt pavements,” “full-depth pavements,” “deep-strength pavements,” and “extended-life pavements,” and they are meant to last for 50 years or longer.
Perpetual pavement theory maintains that the pavement must be constructed so that it is strong enough to both withstand structural distress that would affect the entire pavement and to handle the expected traffic and environmental effects. To achieve this, the bottom layer is generally designed to be thick and flexible, and the upper layer is designed to be stiff and strong. This allows the pavement to withstand common damages and deformations like bottom-up fatigue cracking and full-depth rutting.
All of the wear and tear is handled by the top level of the pavement. Maintenance consists of repairing the top layer when needed or removing it and replacing the top layer entirely. In this way, the bottom layers remain intact, and the pavement can last for decades.
Benefits of perpetual pavement include quick repair times and a maintenance cost that is lower than completely replacing the pavement.
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