Roger Larson, senior engineer for Applied Pavement Technology, told attendees of the recent Midwestern Pavement Preservation Partnership meeting in East Lansing that most road design and construction specifications address only the ride portion of functional characteristics.
"I think there is a tremendous opportunity for those involved in the pavement preservation program to look at improving the pavement condition, particularly texture as it affects friction, safety and noise. We are not necessarily doing what our customers have told us they want and they're a little angry," Larson said.
The Midwestern Pavement Partnership (MPPP) affords pavement preservation practitioners an ongoing regional forum to publicize and share information describing improvements in research, design, specifications, materials, and construction practices, and to promote the benefits of pavement preservation through education and application.
The MPPP is a regional forum of pavement professionals from state and Canadian provincial agencies, contractors, suppliers, academia, and local and federal government officials, all working together to take advantage of the synergy to be gained from sharing information and identifying common issues for further investigation.
"Safety is the top priority for me. We're killing 43,000 people annually, and that is unacceptable. We can look at the accident rates that have been going down, but this number has stayed pretty constant for the last 10 years. Engineers need to look at doing something different to see what part we can play in reducing the death rate. The annual cost of this has been estimated at $230 billion per year when you look at the injury rates, the fatalities and the property damage," Larson said.
"Another issue is noise in urban areas. There is an effort being made to see how we can reduce that. If we don't have specifications that will address it, it won't be addressed.
"Looking at safety design, most of the emphasis is on driver behavior and vehicle design. The area that I would like to talk about is infrastructure and the two areas that are important there are the geometric design, which is reducing the texture and friction demand, and the pavement surface characteristics. Most of the emphasis on infrastructure is on geometric design.
"In 1995, 100 percent of the states were working on safety management systems. In 2003, only 20 percent to 40 percent of the states were actively working on safety management systems."
Larson said that in 1989, the United Kingdom began doing an annual friction survey and an annual texture survey. They look at any location where the accident rate is above the average rate to see if friction or texture is possibly contributing to the accident rate.
"It appears to be highly effective. The fatality rate has dropped from 50 to six per 100,000 population. They probably have the lowest accident rate in the world. I think it shows that their approach works," Larson said.
"Greater international cooperation is needed in the texture area. It comes down to what the cost-effectiveness is of improving the friction."