Shortages Delaying Paving Projects

Staff | September 28, 2010

Denver— Shortages of asphalt and its key ingredients threaten to delay up to $275 million in Colorado summer paving projects, the Denver Post reported July 14.

The shortages are affecting 34 of the Colorado Department of Transportation's paving projects statewide, said CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman.

In metro Denver, projects affected include the resurfacing of Interstate 25 between Santa Fe Drive and West Sixth Avenue; the repaving of Colorado Boulevard between East Mexico and Alameda avenues; and two major paving projects on East Colfax Avenue.

A shortage of liquid asphalt is occurring, in part, because oil refiners are concentrating on producing more profitable finished products from crude oil, such as diesel fuel instead of asphalt, said Tom Peterson, executive director of the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association.

Liquid asphalt is mixed with rock and sand to produce hot mix asphalt for paving roadways. CDOT specifies that a chemical polymer be added to the hot mix to strengthen the pavement, especially in areas where traffic volume is high, such as interstate highways.

A worldwide shortage of this polymer is compounding the problem for CDOT and asphalt paving contractors in Colorado, Peterson said.

The polymer is used to reduce cracking and rutting in asphalt pavements. Its shortage is related to heavy demand for materials in China and India, according to the Colorado pavement association.

During the asphalt and polymer shortage, CDOT will concentrate on completing interstate-highway paving projects around the state as well as roadways that "already are torn up," a spokesperson said.

"Suppliers have told us the shortage is expected to ease this fall and winter," Peterson told the newspaper. "We should be back to normal next year."