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The road ahead: Dickinson looks at road recycling practices

Dickinson hosted an asphalt recycling and reclaiming seminar this week to pursue more efficient road improvement techniques. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press1 / 5
Dickinson Sens. Rich Wardner (second from left) and Kelly Armstrong (third from left) attended the road demonstration Wednesday morning. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press2 / 5
Dickinson hosted an asphalt recycling and reclaiming seminar this week to pursue more efficient road improvement techniques. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press3 / 5
Dickinson hosted an asphalt recycling and reclaiming seminar this week to pursue more efficient road improvement techniques. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press4 / 5
Dickinson hosted an asphalt recycling and reclaiming seminar this week to pursue more efficient road improvement techniques. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press5 / 5

The benefits of recycling a paved road instead of reconstructing one were on display in Stark County Wednesday on old Highway 10 past Stockmen's Livestock Exchange.

Dickinson hosted an in-place recycling and reclaiming seminar this week, which included a live demonstration Wednesday morning.

The Asphalt Recycling and Reclaiming Association (ARRA) organized the event to show the processes of recycling existing roads as a more cost-effective and time-saving practice.

"Once a road has reached pretty much past its useful life, traditionally and historically many agencies will reconstruct that road, which is very expensive, right?" said Lindsay Matush, CEO of Vario Consulting, which works on behalf of the industry. "And with a process like full-depth reclamation, you're able to generate significant savings and often significant time and you're reusing 100 percent of the existing material in place."

The process serves as an alternative to traditional road reconstructions, which usually involve hauling new materials in to rebuild the base of the road and hauling out the old resources. Industry representatives from other states, cities and counties attended the event to learn more about the process.

In the demonstration, a 3,000-foot stretch of road east of Boespflug Trailers on East Villard Street was rebuilt over the course of two days. Later in the day on Thursday the road should be open for public use once more.

The city and county share the road, so Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said he thought it would be a good site for the project.

State Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, also said the stretch was one of the worst in the area and needed the care.

The city and county will be able to monitor the new road's conditions to determine whether the method might be something worth looking into further.

"I think that it's a new way of keeping our road system up in North Dakota, not only here in Dickinson and Stark County, but in western North Dakota with the oil patch," Wardner said. "We've got pretty good roads out here, but we're going to have to take care of them because they get a lot of traffic. It looks like this is cost-efficient, and it looks like it's going to be good-quality. Time will tell."

Heiser said the county has never used asphalt recycling processes like these in the past and is excited to see how the road performs as a result.

"What I'm really interested in is stabilizing the sub-base below the gravel," he said. "This particular road here, when we took the asphalt off it was really muddy and wet. Now we've stabilized the sub-grade so when we put our gravel, our pavement back on top we'll have the sub-grade re-stabilized so it can actually hold it up. This road was severely rutted before and that should take care of that."

Dale Heglund, program director for the North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program (NDLTAP), said if they can stabilize that road, they can probably stabilize any in the area. The road is old and deteriorated with a poor base, but he estimated the work on it this week will serve easily as a 50-year fix, a number he said may even be conservative compared with industry projections. The methods presented have proven economically friendly as well.

Cass County completed a 9-mile job this year using the technique and will have an 8-mile job next year with savings around $233,000 a mile, Heglund said. 

"That allowed them to add two more jobs because of the cost-savings they had to their program this year," Heglund said. 

Bismarck is also using similar methods to improve its streets, he said.

In western North Dakota, the roads have taken a beating from the heavy loads brought in with the surge in oil production. The old infrastructure was not built to sustain these heavy loads and therefore needs improved foundations, Heglund said.

"In the 20s, 30s, 40s, we didn't have the heavy loads we have today, so they weren't built wrong, just different conditions," he said. "We need to change that. This allows us to improve the foundation of the roadway rather than just putting an asphalt overlay on top."

Once the base is replenished, the surface levels will also last longer.

Another point for consideration is the state's limited aggregate resources. There is not a lot of gravel in North Dakota, so agencies have tried to conserve the little gravel available and use it wisely, he said.

"We have an awful lot of gravel and oil stored in our roadway network," Heglund said. "In other words, we've already built those roads, we already hauled the gravel, we put the asphalt down, it's just deteriorated. The processes that we show here today with the different types of pulverizing equipment, tilling equipment, saves that material, adds engineering value to it through different chemicals and materials and keeps it in place."

Matush also noted that recycling the existing surfaces saves resources but also keeps a few more heavy loads off the existing roadways. Hauling gravel and other materials to and from a reconstruction project can damage the other roads depending on how heavy the load is.

Jennie Krause, an engineer with KLJ of Bismarck, attended the seminar and said the process could serve as an option for cities and counties to try. These sorts of reclamation processes are gaining more traction across the state. KLJ is working on a few DOT projects using this sort of processing.

Road maintenance plays a critical role in the state's overall performance, Wardner said, "because without roads, there's no commerce." The oil industry also cannot perform without a sound infrastructure.

"It's not the solution, it's not something we're going to use everywhere all the time, but absolutely we can be using this a lot more in a lot more places," Heglund said.

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