Focusing on Asphalt

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

This issue of Construction News focuses on asphalt. We have found some interesting contractors, producers and projects to feature. With the price of liquid asphalt (AC) rising to as much as $800 per ton in some regions, every effort is being explored to work with asphalt as economically and efficiently as possible, whether in the production phase or in the lay-down phase.

In light of an infrastructure stimulus package, the Asphalt Pavement Alliance (APA) has released a report, titled "Asphalt Pavement: Meeting The Challenge For America," which points out that the 4,000 asphalt pavement mixing plants all across America are ready to pave the way out of the economic downturn. The industry employs around 300,000 people in good-paying American jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas.

Sustainable Trend

The APA's report details how asphalt pavements fit into the environmental sustainability trend espoused by the nation and are economical as well. Read the entire report, "Asphalt Pavement: Meeting The Challenge For America," online at A few key points:

  1. Asphalt pavements have the lowest carbon footprint of any pavement type. Producing and placing asphalt pavements consumes 40 percent less energy than continuously reinforced concrete pavements.
  2. Asphalt is by far the most reused and recycled pavement material in America.
  3. When RAP (recycled asphalt pavement) is reused in asphalt pavements, the asphalt cement is reactivated and becomes part of the binder (or glue) for the new pavement.
  4. Asphalt Perpetual Pavements can be left in place indefinitely and maintained through infrequent milling and resurfacing.
  5. Between 1970 and 1999, the asphalt industry increased production by 250 percent while reducing total emissions by 97 percent.
  6. The asphalt industry even helps to recycle concrete pavements by using rubblized concrete as aggregate.
  7. Asphalt pavements offer the lowest life-cycle cost.
  8. Construction, maintenance and rehabilitation is faster with asphalt.
  9. A study at a test track in Nevada showed that trucks driving on smooth pavements consume 4.5 to 5 percent less fuel. Asphalt roads tend to be smoother than concrete.
  10. Because asphalt is 100 percent recyclable, they are a hedge against inflation.

Economic Stimulus Plan

As news of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan emerges, so do more questions. How will the money "trickle down?" How can small communities get some of this funding?

It has been hinted that projects will be chosen on the basis of how many jobs they will create in the long run — not just for the construction phase. A key goal of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is that it should save or create at least 3 million jobs by the end of 2010. Local groups wishing to promote their projects to their state organizer will need to include that type of information in their proposal.

Another clue is that President Obama is the "new technology President." Remember that he made important announcements via text messaging on cell phones to his subscribers. The construction industry cannot assume that when President Obama says the word, "infrastructure," he is referring only to building materials. A major portion of the stimulus package will involve bringing modern technology into more hospitals and schools. Electrical contractors will find themselves in demand. In doing the math, realize that the electronic components are the major expense.

A large portion of the plan will not be aimed toward the tangible. There will be tax cuts, aid to state coffers to save government jobs, and business incentives to help shore up the financial market, saving jobs in the white collar sector.

How fast the stimulus dollars will hit the pipeline, so to speak, is another consideration. The funding will most probably be distributed in phases: within the first 90 days after January 20, the first day of the Obama administration; then at about the 180-day mark; and finally at perhaps between one to two years.

While the total numbers being touted are huge, make no mistake: Divided by 50 states and 12 industry/market sectors, locally the numbers begin looking a lot less like a Christmas gift and more like a life raft. But even a life raft looks good when the ship is sinking.