Old pavement undergoes a fascinating journey as it ages and experiences the wear and tear of countless vehicles and changing weather conditions. Initially, fresh pavement serves as a smooth, sturdy surface, supporting the movement of cars, trucks, and pedestrians. However, over time, the forces of nature and heavy traffic take their toll, resulting in a gradual degradation of the pavement. At LCI Recycling, we’ve been recycling asphalt and pavement in Maryland for years and wanted to talk about what happens to old pavement today.
Effects of Weather and Environmental Factors
As pavement ages, the effects of weather become increasingly evident. Rain, snow, and ice seep into cracks and crevices, causing the pavement to expand and contract with temperature fluctuations. This constant stress weakens the pavement’s structural integrity, leading to the formation of potholes and fissures. Additionally, UV radiation from the sun oxidizes the asphalt binder, causing it to become brittle and prone to crumbling.
Vehicle Load and Fatigue Cracks
The weight of vehicles, particularly heavy trucks, also contributes to the degradation of pavement. Over time, the repeated loading and unloading of the pavement surface create fatigue cracks. These cracks gradually propagate, allowing moisture to infiltrate further and exacerbating the damage.
Rehabilitation: Restoring Functionality
When pavement reaches a point of significant deterioration, it requires rehabilitation or replacement. The process of rehabilitating old pavement involves several steps. First, any damaged or weakened sections are identified and marked for repair. This may include filling potholes, sealing cracks, or patching areas with degraded asphalt. These repairs aim to restore the pavement’s functionality and prevent further damage.
Recycling and Reusing Old Pavement
In some cases, however, the extent of deterioration necessitates complete pavement replacement. This process typically involves removing the old pavement entirely and preparing the underlying layers for new construction. The removed pavement is often recycled by crushing it into aggregate, which can then be used in the production of new asphalt or as a base material for new roads. Recycling old pavement reduces the demand for virgin materials, conserving natural resources and minimizing environmental impact.
The new pavement is carefully engineered to withstand the anticipated traffic loads and environmental conditions. Advanced materials, such as polymer-modified asphalt, are often used to improve durability and resistance to cracking. Additionally, innovative techniques like warm-mix asphalt allow for lower production temperatures, reducing energy consumption and emissions during construction.
Curing and Maintenance
Once the fresh pavement is laid, it undergoes a curing process to ensure its optimal performance. This typically involves allowing the pavement to cool and harden, allowing the binders to set and the surface to become fully functional. Traffic is often restricted during this curing period to prevent premature damage.
Learn More from a Professional Recycling Company
Through proper maintenance and periodic rehabilitation, the lifespan of pavement can be extended. If the pavement isn’t able to be repaired, then its life will need to be extended. If you’re interested in learning more about the pavement recycling process, reach out to us at LCI Recycling at (301-953-2493).