Florida Highway Tests High-Tech Concrete Road

Truckers Passing Through Route Will Help Evaluate Use
Florida's high-tech concrete
FDOT's high-tech concrete. (MyFDOT via YouTube)

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Truckers passing more than 4 miles of light gray concrete northbound on U.S. Route 301 near Jacksonville, Fla., are playing a key role in the first high-tech concrete experiment in the southeastern United States.

U.S. 301 was chosen for its high volume of trucks and lack of crossroads and businesses through the corridor, which reduce traffic pattern variations through the test area, located east of Jacksonville, specifically just south of County Road 218 to just north of Richard Mosely Road.

The $27 million project, testing concrete pavement and base design, is being conducted and funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, Michael Williams, deputy communications director at FDOT, told Transport Topics.

FDOT engineers are able to monitor pavement conditions in real-time under live traffic, including heavy trucks.

“The pavement has embedded strain gauges and thermocouples to measure pavement response to load and temperature continuously,” Williams said.

He added that the road will be evaluated “twice a year with several pieces of equipment to measure the pavement smoothness, amount of cracking, friction resistance and texture of the pavement surface, pavement profile, noise generated from the pavement and stiffness of the different pavement layers.”

FDOT, which will continue working on the asphalt portion of the project for the rest of the year, is using a wide variety of sophisticated scientific technologies.

“Moisture probes have been installed on the project to determine the water level. Edge drain sensors have been installed on some sections to determine the amount of water being drained and the length of functionality of the edge drains,” Williams said.

FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue, in a March 14 announcement of the project, stated, “Using innovative technologies to collect real time data on the efficacy of various types of concrete available to use on Florida’s roads allows us to use the most effective materials to create resilient transportation corridors and reliable supply chains while prudently using taxpayer dollars. The more resilient the materials we use, the longer they last, reducing our maintenance costs and construction times, limiting the congestion travelers feel in active work zones.”

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Howie Moseley, state materials engineer at FDOT, explained that the concrete portion at the start of the test area has technology providing daily traffic volume measurements. “The vast majority of the time, all the traffic on 301 going toward Jacksonville will be able to drive right over the concrete test road,” he added.

FDOT is conducting several basic studies on the test road. A structural experiment is looking at different pavement designs, including varying pavement thickness from 6 to 10 inches. Today, FDOT uses 4 inches of asphalt over a stabilized subgrade in the pavement.

Engineers are also evaluating several different types of concrete pavement bases (including a thinner 2-inch asphalt, different combinations of lime rock and thicknesses of 2- and 4-inch lime rock).

“The goal is to determine the most optimal way to design a concrete pavement, and we’ll use this information to refine our design procedures, our construction specifications and also our maintenance procedures for concrete pavements,” Moseley said.