The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving
The roadways and airstrips connecting our nation are integral to our society and daily lives. We expect smooth drives and safe landings, yet we rarely stop to think about the foundation of those expectations: the best material that can be used to surface roads, runways and other infrastructure.
Concrete pavements are a staple of our infrastructure – a durable, economical and sustainable solution for our roadways, airstrips, military bases, parking lots and sidewalks. Additionally, concrete pavements offer many safety benefits to drivers.
Simply put, concrete pavements have the longest lifespan of any paving material. It can withstand the freezing winters of the upper Midwest to the scorching summers of the Southwest, with an average service life of 30 to 50 years.
- A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that concrete pavements last 29.4 years before a major rehabilitation is required – compared to asphalt, which requires major rehabilitation after 13.8 years.
Concrete pavements consume minimal materials, energy and other resources throughout its lifespan, giving it a lower overall energy footprint, and offers better fuel efficiency for drivers. Concrete pavements have a lower energy footprint associated with production, delivery and maintenance than asphalt pavement.
- Concrete’s lighter color reduces the amount of power necessary for illumination and mitigates the urban heat island effect.
- Tires driving over smoother roads get better mileage per tank of gas; the overall better condition of concrete pavement compared to asphalt gives drivers better roads and better mileage.
- Concrete can be 100% recycled at the end of its service life, making it a renewable pavement option.
Concrete pavements require minimal materials and energy for initial construction and do not require repeated resurfacing, spot repairs or patching. Compared to other road surfacing materials which require constant maintenance, concrete is cheaper to use at the outset and less expensive throughout its lifespan because it does not require extensive upkeep.
- It was estimated that using lifecycle cost analysis for pavements alone can save an average $91 million for every $1 billion spent, or 9.1%, when comparing equivalent concrete and asphalt pavement alternatives.
- The use of concrete pavement is less disruptive to traffic – the construction of concrete pavements does not require lengthy lane closures and roads can be reopened in as short as six hours.
- Concrete pavement can dramatically increase the life of transportation systems, cutting the amount of yearly repairs and spreading them out over longer time periods.
Concrete pavement offers a number of safety benefits, including:
- Less potential for road hazards. Deteriorating pavement impacts stopping distance and increases the number of work zones for repairs. Because of its longer life, there is less need for closures for repairs. Asphalt pavements require regular maintenance every two to four years to correct rutting, cracking, potholes, and other problems, whereas concrete pavements typically need only minor rehabilitation at 12 to 16 years.
- Better visibility. Concrete pavement is easier to see due to its lighter color and reflects more light, making it easier to see objects on the road as well.
- Greater traction. Concrete pavement ensures shorter vehicle stopping distances in wet weather and features a skid resistant surface. Concrete pavements never rut or “washboard,” like asphalt pavement, and both of these features reduce the dangers of hydroplaning and provide better, long-term traction.
For more information about how concrete contributes to a more resilient nation, visit Building Safer, Stronger Communities.
For more information about the sustainability benefits of concrete pavements, visit Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency.