Minnesota’s media cover an endless number of local road stories. Topics include potholes, road construction, traffic, closed and re-opened routes, funding, taxes and assessments. How about going beyond the same old-same old reporting?
Here’s a new angle: Cities may be paying millions more over the life of our roads than is needed. They are not designing nor getting bids for concrete paving, sticking almost exclusively with asphalt, which breaks down into potholes within three years or less. Concrete doesn’t. These are the two choices: asphalt vs concrete.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reports that the average life of an asphalt road is 15.5 years before repairs, and the average life of a concrete road is 27.5 before repairs. Asphalt pavement typically costs less on the front end as a capital expense, but far more in the annual public works budget for maintenance, like pothole repairs and seal coating. Engineers who pave with concrete typically place it and leave it alone for years.
Below, we’ve got some fresh story ideas, facts and more to assist you with your street stories.
New stories with a bit of research
- Which costs more to maintain: Asphalt or concrete streets? If your city has concrete and asphalt streets, find one of each and compare the maintenance costs. Ideally, compare two, one-mile stretches with similar traffic volumes and of similar age.
- What is the bidding process your city uses for capital expenditures? Does it ever involve comparing short-term and long-term costs or what’s called a “life cycle cost analysis?” Do they apply the same bidding process to all capital expenditures, such as computer upgrades, a new ambulance, and street pavement?
Background facts about Minnesota roads
Who maintains most of our roads
- Elected officials are responsible for more than 135,000 miles of city, county, townships and state roads. While much attention is focused on state roads, they account for less than 10 percent of all roads in the state. Counties, cities and townships actually maintain the majority of roads in Minnesota.
- Fifty percent of our state roads are more than 50 years old and long past their life expectancy.
Average life expectancy
- MnDOT reports that the average life expectancy of their concrete pavements is 27.5 years before repair while asphalt pavements have an average life expectancy of only 15.5 years before repair.
- New Minnesota concrete pavement designs are expected to last for 60+ years with minimal maintenance.
Road vocabulary – A common language
- Alternative pavement designs for street project bids allow elected officials to compare the real, long-term costs of using asphalt as well as concrete. In other words, it allows them to compare apples-to-apples in and apples-and-oranges bidding environment.
- Asphalt is a mixture of petroleum and crushed stone gravel or sand used to pave roads
- Concrete is a mixture of cement sand, gravel and water, which dries hard and strong and is used as a material to build roads.
Sources for stories about potholes and pavement
In addition to interviewing your city engineer, city administrator or city manager, here are a few other knowledgeable sources for perspectives on concrete and asphalt streets.
Fred W. King, marketing director, INSPEC
Fred has worked in the construction sector since 1980. Inspec is an independent engineering/architectural firm focusing on roofs, walls, windows, outdoor athletic facilities, pavements and waterproofing systems. He has an unbiased point of view about getting the best value for your money for infrastructure projects, and knows about alternate bids, and life cycle cost analyses.
Fred can be reached by calling 612-247-0783 or emailing email@example.com