New Rubber Asphalt Being Tested Could Mean Less Potholes

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

"The rubber added to the asphalt amends the properties to keep asphalt elastic for a longer period of time."

-- Bill Conklin, Director, Ingham County Road Department

It's a bumpy ride for drivers all over Mid-Michigan as we find ourselves in the midst of pothole season.

But there are some stretches of road right now where it's actually pretty smooth sailing.

Ingham County is in the midst of testing out a new paving technique using rubber from old tires that might actually help reduce the number of potholes down the road.

There are currently three stretches of road in the Lansing area that have received the rubber treatment including Waverly Road between Miller and Jolly, Haslett Road between Park Lake and Okemos, and Cornell Road between M-43 and Haslett.

The method is also being tested in Saginaw County.

"Grants have been given to develop and research mixtures involving recycled tire rubber in the asphalt paving mixture," said Bill Conklin, director for the Ingham County Road Department.

"The rubber added to the asphalt amends the properties to keep asphalt elastic for a longer period of time."

The added rubber keeps the pavement flexible, making it less prone to cracking which could potentially mean less potholes, according to Conklin.

Given the current state of Michigan's roads and road funding, Conklin said the priority now is figuring out how to do more with less.

"What we're doing is using higher-technology materials to do more road or a better job with the funding we have."

But where the rubber meets the road there's also a bigger price tag compared to regular asphalt or concrete, ringing up at roughly $20 more per ton, which can add up quickly when paving miles of road.

"Being a new product with a market not exactly set up to mass produce this material it's a little more expensive at this time," Conklin said.

Conklin said the county is working with the Michigan DNR and the engineering department at Michigan State University on researching the material.

Since 2011, the county has received roughly $700,000 in grant money to help fund the three projects that totaled roughly $4 million to complete.

The county is still waiting to determine the success of the current trials.

"Certainly for the next half dozen years we want to observe this and see how it's looking at age 10," Conklin said. "At 10 years we should be able to discern differences... but for the first few years we've seen we're happy with the performance."

Bennett Road in Okemos could be the next road to receive the treatment, according to Conklin.


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