The fourth biennial TxDOT/Cement Council of Texas Concrete Paving Conference brought together experts from throughout Texas and nationwide to discuss latest trends and studies. Cement Council of Texas Executive Director Robert Lopez's welcome opened the door for 25 informative presentations over the day-and-a-half conference at the downtown Austin Marriott Hotel.
TxDOT Construction Division Director Thomas Bohuslav predicted a slight decline in construction lettings over the next few years, from about $5.6 billion in 2006 to below $5 billion in both '07 and '08. These figures do not include any CDA (Comprehensive Development Agreements) or RMA (Regional Mobility Authority) contracts. "We've seen over the past few years almost a 50-percent increase in the costs to do our work," he continued, "so our volume is not quite where it was."
Ted R. Ferragut, P.E., president of TDC Partners Ltd. of Washington, D.C., described the challenges that will soon become standard practices for designers and builders of concrete pavements — from accelerated schedules to reducing noise value. A new research organization, "The National Center for Concrete Pavement Technology at Iowa State University," has begun promoting a National Plan: "a comprehensive, collaborative, strategic plan for concrete pavement research and technology ... not owned by any organization [or] tied to any one fund."
Kevin Folliard, Ph.D., associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin, described testing that he along with his students are conducting that may change minds about how additives affect sulfate attacks and alkali silica reactions.
Kevin Pruski, P.E., of TxDOT's Bridge Division, explained the options available for high-performance concrete mix designs in structural applications, along with the problems that air entrainment causes here in Texas.
Dr. Kenneth Hover, P.E., professor of structural engineering at Cornell University, entertained and taught us how to make concrete durable, strong and long lasting, yet workable. He also reminded us that adding extra water, either at the plant or on-site, reduces strength and durability and that we need to be cognizant of its use in order to minimize cracking. To improve workability, he recommended plasticizer and paying attention to aggregate size and gradation.
The next conference is scheduled for the October — November time frame in 2008.