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El Paso and southern New Mexico had some of the roughest roads in the U.S., study says

(This post was originally written on Oct 17, 2018, by Simon Williams. Read the original article here.)

A study coming out Wednesday morning says EL Paso and southern New Mexico are home to some of the roughest roads in the U.S.

Specifically, the study ranks El Paso and Southern New Mexico roads as the 11th roughest and highest cost to drivers in the U.S.

The study comes from TRIP, which is a national transportation group based out of Washington, D.C.

It calculates the cost of driving rough roads like increasing repairs, maintenance, and tire wear. It says that cost for a driver in the El Paso and southern New Mexico region is about $788 a year.

Erik Meza lives in Central El Paso and rides his bike to the University of Texas at El Paso’s campus and he says “It’s just frustrating having to ride my bike through there. There is nothing but potholes or bumpy roads especially from Stanton all the way up to Oregon, those roads are terrible.”

David Tinoco of Central El Paso lives by El Paso High School and says, “I drive to Cotton and all that and it’s real bad.”

The study says that travel growth is increasing and road conditions are expected to get worse without additional funding.

It says vehicle miles of travel in the U.S. increased by 16 percent from 2000 to 2016 and increased by six percent from 2013 to 2016.

Kathleen Bower, AAA senior vice president of public affairs and international relations says “AAA urges Congress and the current administration to prioritize road infrastructure improvements to ensure safe, efficient, and reliable mobility across the United States.”

Meza agrees something should be done. “It’s pretty sad that we have so many potholes throughout El Paso,” he says, “Especially through the freeway when you’re going down 60 miles an hour down the freeway and you see a pothole, what are you going to do?”

The study looks at cities in large and mid-sized urban areas and EL Paso and southern New Mexico are in the large urban area category.

In the mid-sized areas, Laredo, Texas ranks as 13th roughest and highest cost to drivers and Lubbock, Texas ranks as 15th roughest and highest cost to drivers.

(This post was originally written on Oct 17, 2018, by Simon Williams. Read the original article here.)

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Two ballot questions could generate millions for transportation in Southwest Colorado

(This post was originally written on Oct 4, 2018, by Mary Shinn. Read the original article here.)

Voters will consider two ballot questions in November that would boost funding for transportation statewide in vastly different ways and dedicate different amounts to Southwest Colorado projects.

Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh said the additional money for the Colorado Department of Transportation is needed, in part because the 22-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline that funds the department has not gone up since 1991.

“We’re trying to spend our dollars as wisely as possible. But there is not enough money to do the job we are trying to do for you,” he told a small group gathered at the Durango Public Library on Thursday.

CDOT’s annual budget is $1.75 billion. Its funding is generated by federal and state gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, the state’s general fund and a mix of other sources.

As the state’s population has grown from 3.3 million people in 1991 to 5.4 million in 2015, CDOT’s budget per capita has declined from $125.70 per person annually to $68.54 per person annually, McVaugh said.

If nothing is done, scarcity of funds will continue to worsen, he said.

“We’re short of what we really believe needs to be done, to not just maintain what we have but to improve what we have,” said Sidny Zink, a state transportation commissioner.

Proposition 110 asks voters to raise the state sales tax by 0.62 percent (6 cents per $10 purchase) for 20 years.

The measure would allow the state to spend about $7 billion on construction projects over seven to 10 years.

“If I am paying another 6 cents on a $10 purchase, it’s going to add up incredibly fast and make a difference statewide,” Zink said.

The new revenues from Proposition 110 would be divided three ways: 45 percent would go to state projects, 40 percent would fund city and county roads and 15 percent would fund public transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects.

If Proposition 110 passes, nine projects in Southwest Colorado would be funded, including about $55 million to widen U.S. Highway 160 east of Elmore’s Corner to Bayfield and $2 million for safety improvements along Highway 550 in Durango.

Durangoan Wendy Lasher supported Proposition 110 after hearing from CDOT officials because it would help maintain the state’s roads and dedicate money for cities and counties to use.

“It’s a minuscule amount that makes a huge difference,” she said.

Proposition 109, entitled “Fix Our Damn Roads,” would require the state to use its surplus funds and reprioritize spending toward road infrastructure.

The question would allow the state to bond for $3.5 billion to use on projects over three years, McVaugh said. It would not create a new funding stream to pay back the debt.

“Personally, I feel like 109 is all talk and no show,” La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake said.

If passed, Proposition 109 could fund six projects in Southwest Colorado, including $66 million to widen Highway 160 from Elmore’s Corner to Bayfield. It could also set aside $32 million to widen U.S. Highway 550 south to the New Mexico border. The measure would not generate enough money to fund all the projects it names as priorities, and the state Transportation Commission would have to select projects for funding, Zink said.

If both measures are passed, the court system would have to decide how the measures would be implemented because they conflict with another, McVaugh said. It is possible the courts could choose just to implement the measure with the most votes, he said.

(This post was originally written on Oct 4, 2018, by Mary Shinn. Read the original article here.)

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Capitol Agenda for the Week of Oct. 8: Federal Funding for Roads on Tribal Lands

(This post was originally written on Oct 5, 2018, by Eugene Mulero. Read the original article here.)

A funding opportunity of $300 million for the building and repairing of surface transportation at tribal and federal lands has been made available, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Oct. 3. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, with the first deadline set for Dec. 17.

The financial assistance is designed to assist with the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of projects that provide access to or within federal or tribal lands. To be eligible, applicants must identify single continuous projects. The federal share of the cost of the project shall be up to 90%. Projects estimated at $50 million or more will be prioritized in the selection process.

Funding will come through the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects program, established under the 2015 FAST Act highway law.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in a statement, said the program “will help underserved tribal areas fund large-scale infrastructure projects that will improve safety and mobility for their communities.”

Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson added: “The funds will go a long way in making sure that needed improvements to infrastructure serving federal and tribal lands are addressed.”

THE WEEK AHEAD: (all times EDT)

Oct. 8, 4 p.m.: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is scheduled to speak at the National Press Club.

Oct. 9, 1 p.m.: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hosts a teleconference of the Unified Carrier Registration Plan Procedures Subcommittee.

Oct. 10, 12 p.m.: The Cato Institute hosts a discussion on “Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love are Not the Transportation We Need.”

Oct. 10, 7 p.m.: The National Archives hosts its 2018 Records of Achievement Award ceremony and gala to honor former first lady Laura Bush.

Oct. 11, 9:30 a.m.: The Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “The Future of the Fleets: Coast Guard and NOAA Ship Recapitalization.”

Oct. 11, 1 p.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion with Election Assistance Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser at the Homeland Security Department, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Oliver, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Oct. 11, 2 p.m.: The International Trade Administration hosts a meeting of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

XL: The annualized rate of driver turnover at large truckload fleets in the second quarter jumped 4 percentage points year-over-year to 98%, according to American Trucking Associations’ Trucking Activity Report.

FLYING CARS: Secretary Chao on Oct. 4 unveiled AV 3.0, the agency’s policy update of autonomous vehicle technology guidelines.

Chao delivered remarks on the updated guidance, titled “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0,” at the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington.

KEYSTONE: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has announced funding for 42 projects related to highways, bridges, transit, ports and pedestrian accessibility.

(This post was originally written on Oct 5, 2018, by Eugene Mulero. Read the original article here.)

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APANM’s Scholarship Opportunities

Asphalt Industry $1,000 Scholarship

Application Deadline: Monday, May 19, 2017
For more information, contact the Asphalt Pavement Association of New Mexico.
PO Box 25546 505-831-8811
Albuquerque, NM 87125 www.apanm.org

ELIGIBILITY

  • Must be a current New Mexico resident
  • Must be a registered student for the planned award semester, this scholarship will be applied to the student’s college account, this is not a cash award
  • Must be enrolled full-time in an Accredited School of Engineering with a declared major in Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering or Construction Management.
  • Must have an expressed interest in pursuing a career in the Transportation/Geotechnical/Pavement Engineering in New Mexico.
  • Must maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average.

Click here for application.

Asphalt Industry $1,500 Scholarship

Application Deadline: Monday, May 19, 2017
For more information, contact the Asphalt Pavement Association of New Mexico.
PO Box 25546 505-831-8811
Albuquerque, NM 87125 www.apanm.org

ELIGIBILITY

  • Must be a current New Mexico resident.
  • You or a parent must be an employee of a APANM member firm.
  • Must be a registered student for the planned award semester, this scholarship will be applied to the student’s college account, this is not a cashaward.
  • Must be enrolled full-time in an Accredited New Mexico College orUniversity.
  • Must have an expressed interest in pursuing a four-year degree.
  • Must maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average

Click here for application.

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Fix your mix

FixMix_loosemix_webBy Phil Blankenship, P.E.
How can we make our asphalt mixes better?

More specifically, what steps can be taken to improve durability, rut-resistance and crack resistance.

We look at three basic steps:

• Adjust the gradation to ensure adequate VMA (voids in mineral aggregate) and thus sufficient binder

• Allow for proper air voids in combination with VMA

• Understand and control the impact of RAP (reclaimed asphalt pavement) and RAS (reclaimed asphalt shingles) in our mix

Let’s look at VMA, which stands for “Voids in Mineral Aggregate.” VMA is the space between the rocks that can be filled with asphalt. The space filled with asphalt is known as VFA (Voids Filled with Asphalt). The remaining space is air voids.

VMA is critical to a mixture’s durability and crack resistance. When VMA is lowered, you lower the asphalt binder content for a given air void level (typically 4.0 percent for Superpave mix design). And when you lower the asphalt content, the mix becomes more economical but also less durable.

To understand proper VMA, we can go back to the 1990s during the development of Superpave. A critical component of Superpave mix design is the minimum VMA criteria for each different size mix. A 9.5 mm mix has a minimum VMA of 15.0 percent, a 12.5 mm mix is 14.0 percent, and a 19 mm mix is 13.0 percent. Smaller stone mixes have more aggregate surface area to coat, thus requiring more VMA and more asphalt.

VMA drives binder content

The lower the VMA, the lower the asphalt content for a given air void level. Mix designers and contractors who are focused on making their mix less costly will often design their gradation to be as close to the minimum VMA requirement as possible. This allows for the lowest design (optimum) asphalt content while still meeting specifications. That mix may be slightly more economical to produce, but durability can suffer. This is why Superpave and most specifications require a minimum VMA, which should always be met.

VMA collapse during production

VMA in a mix will typically drop when going from mix design to production. This is because there is more aggregate breakdown and dust generated in an asphalt plant relative to the mix design process. To help capture this important concept, think of the aggregate tumbling aggressively in a plant drum versus being stirred by a whip in a mixing bowl. The VMA drop is typically from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent, depending on aggregate hardness. To avoid problems, mix designers should either design higher than the minimum, or add a modest amount of dust during the mix design to plan for the breakdown.

Recognizing this phenomenon of VMA collapse, some states currently allow the minimum VMA criteria to drop during field production. Specifiers need to realize that allowing this will typically reduce the asphalt content from mix design to field production. For example, if an agency allows lowering the VMA by 0.5 percent, that will typically result in the asphalt content dropping 0.1 to 0.2 percent. In addition, some specifications allow lowering the optimum asphalt content from mix design by 0.3 to 0.5 percent for field adjustments.

Lowering asphalt content in the field often means our pavements are under-asphalted or dry. This can lead to early raveling and cracking since the binder serves as the glue. Lower asphalt content can also mean the mix is harder to compact.

Air voids

Superpave has us designing mixes at 4.0 percent air voids. Some states, in an attempt to get more binder in their mix, are designing at slightly less than 4.0 percent air voids, such as 3.5 percent. Other states allow for a range on design air voids, such as 3.8 to 4.2 percent. Just as the mix designer tries to remain cost competitive by designing on the low end of VMA, they also will design at the high end of voids. Again, this will lower durability by making our mixes drier.

RAP/RAS

The third item we need to look at is the use of RAP (reclaimed asphalt pavement) and RAS (reclaimed asphalt shingles) in the mix design. While the use of RAS is somewhat new, RAP has been around for many years but usage and design practices vary greatly.

RAP has many benefits. It reduces the cost of asphalt mix per mile, adds strength to the pavement because of the angularity of the RAP aggregate and reduces virgin material requirements. However, I personally do not believe that we fully understand the impact of either RAP or RAS on long-term pavement performance properties, especially cracking.

While we know that state departments of transportation (DOTs) and local road and street agencies recommend a wide range of RAP and RAS guidelines, we also know that for every increase in RAP or RAS percentage, we lower the percentage of new asphalt binder. Also, increased use of RAP or RAS will result in a more brittle mix if the Performance Grade (PG) is not lowered.

Many assumptions are made in the mix design process when utilizing RAP. One of them is the assumption that 100 percent of the RAP binder releases and mixes with the new (virgin) binder. If the assumption is wrong and not all the RAP binder releases, then we are low on asphalt.

With RAS, agencies typically assume that 70 to 80 percent of the RAS binder mixes with the virgin materials. However, it is my opinion that the percentage is likely less than that because most RAS is barely fluid at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature at the average hot mix plant will usually not exceed 325-340 degrees, and even less with warm mix additives. Because the RAS is not fluid, it is very likely the amount of RAS binder activated is much less than assumed in the mix design.

The big picture

If we look at the big picture, we are losing asphalt from lower VMAs, higher air voids design ranges and the amount of RAP and RAS used in the mix. It is not unreasonable to conclude that these combined factors could reduce the percentage of asphalt binder in an average asphalt mixture by 0.2 to 0.6 percent by weight of the total mix.

However, by maintaining minimum VMA, the proper design percentage of air voids, and more fully planning for the impact of RAP and RAS in the mix, we can improve our asphalt mix designs.

For further information about RAP and RAS, see chapter 11 in the Asphalt Institute’s “MS-2, Asphalt Mix Design Methods, 7th Edition” available at asphaltinstitute.org.

Blankenship is the Senior Research Engineer at the Asphalt Institute.

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