Patches Are Not Solutions

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Patches are not solutions. As I drive from home to anywhere I run over numerous patches. In fact, it’s difficult to find a stretch of road around her that isn’t paved with patches. Don’t get me wrong; there has been a lot of road construction this summer and 3-mile stretch of a heavily traveled road has been, once again, resurfaced hiding, but not fixing the patches. Right now the surface is smooth, relatively speaking, but by next spring it will require new patches.

The pavement patches are one thing; the highway bill patch another. It is in keeping with our political philosophy – why do today what can be put off until tomorrow. When the last highway bill was passed everyone knew it would be up for renewal. Years before it expired industry groups and coalitions started hammering Congress to get busy developing a new long-term bill that would address our transportation infrastructure needs.

The result?

Another patch on top of another patch on top of yet another patch, just like the unsafe roads we’re forced to travel. The bill was pushed back because there’s an election and the politicians, oh yes, I forgot, “our representatives” promulgate a piece of legislation that might raise taxes, create user fees or influence us to not re-elect them.

The attitude seems to be, To hell with the roads, your safety, the damage to your family cars, the increased cost freight transportation…

You will spend more money on car repairs that are a direct result of being forced to drive on patched pavements than you would pay in an increased gas tax!

I apologize for climbing up on my soapbox again; got carried away because after my last editorial I was accused of being a spokesperson for asphalt pavements. I love concert pavements as much as asphalt.

Here are some concrete facts:

Concrete pavements have been a mainstay of America’s transportation infrastructure for more than 50 years. The country’s first concrete street, built in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 1891, is still in service today. Concrete pavements are not confined to one region of North America, nor to a specific type of environment or climate. Concrete can handle the freezing winters of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the scorching heat of the Southwest.

Regardless of the type of roadway or current pavement conditions, there can be a concrete solution. It can be used for new pavements, reconstruction, resurfacing, restoration or rehabilitation. Concrete pavements generally provide long life, low maintenance and low life-cycle cost.

Concrete pavements Typically remain in service on highways and roadways after 30, 40, or 50 years.

Rigid concrete pavements hold their shape, resist potholes, and offer excellent skid-resistance for vehicles.

Concrete pavements are recyclable. Concrete is one of the most recycled construction material in the world. For example, recycled concrete can be used to create base materials for new roadways or as ‘rip-rap,’ large pieces of concrete used for erosion control and flood prevention.

Asphalt or concrete, concrete or asphalt, it doesn’t matter. There are professional highway engineers who can and do design roads for the geographic regions in which they are laid with the materials that will provide the best service over the longest period of time. But like everything else in life there is a price tag attached. And like everything else in life, there are mitigating factors that influence the longevity of our roads: traffic volume; type of traffic – autos or trucks; climatic conditions; freeze-thaw cycles; temperatures below zero; roadbed base; base materials; pavement thickness; etc. The list is long and detailed. Building a road is not simple. The best roads require constant maintenance, regular repair, scheduled upgrades and a commitment to preserve their integrity and safety for continuous future use.

Our roads are a precious national resource – asphalt or concrete. It is our responsibility to protect the investment in them. Repairing today’s damaged roads tomorrow will be too late, especially for the people who suffer and die because of this neglect.

Greg Sitek

Note: This editorial appeared in the September 2014 issues of the ACP magazines.