Better asphalt way to pothole-free roads: chemical engineer

Can cost 15% more, add 10 years to road's life

Navigating Toronto streets has been something of an adventure lately--drivers and cyclists steering around potholes, pedestrians skipping over cracks.

But Simon Hesp, a chemical engineer, says it doesn't have to be this way.

The Queen's University professor tells Ryan Doyle and John Downs on Friendly Fire, road surfaces can be kept smooth for longer, simply by using better-quality asphalt.

"If you have a better glue, it doesn't harden as quickly as it does here on average, then you can extend the life of your road dramatically", says Hesp.

He's developed testing to dig into the makeup of asphalt used in 33 different spots across the province, many of them highly travelled and subject to harsh winters.

Hesp found a stretch of the Trans Canada Highway, north of North Bay, that had started to show "widespread cracking distress" after only five years. Tests of its asphalt revealed that residue from the process to recycle engine oil had been used as a binder, leaving the pavement more susceptible to breaking open. By contrast, a section of the Trans Canada west of Cochrane paved a year earlier with better-quality material was mostly free of cracks and potholes.

Hesp admits the good, additive-light stuff is as much as 15 per cent more expensive. But he believes it is a worthwhile investment.

"You don't have to argue with spending five or ten...or 15 per cent more, and getting 10 extra years out of the life (of the road)", says Hesp.

The fact that already in 2014, Toronto has had to patch up more than double the number of pot holes it did in the same period last year, signals some underlying problems for Hesp, maybe with a new asphalt supplier. He says as it is, the city's money is "going down the drain, basically".

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  1. john posted on 01/17/2014 12:12 PM
    hmm sounds like one of those snake oile salesmen . to me .
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