Could rubber help our roads to bounce back?
The UK produces 50 million waste tyres each year which can’t go to landfill and our engineers are looking at the potential for trialling the use of some of this material in road resurfacing material.
Rubber from tyres has already been tested in Germany and Coventry in the hope that it will provide the sort of flexibility and hard-wearing qualities that would make for longer-lasting road surfaces.
Another new technique that has been catching the imagination of some people involves the use of waste plastic. Like tyres the UK produces a large amount of this material and tests have also been carried out in this country to see how it fares, but at the moment the council’s experts don’t think that the process is advanced enough to use in Oxfordshire for carriageways but we are working with our suppliers to look at the potential for the use of plastics in footways.
Old roads come round to a new way of thinking
Normally when a road is resurfaced the old materials are dug up and sent off to landfill. This not only costs money but also could be a waste of valuable materials.
The county council has recently been using a technique called ‘Regen’ where old surface materials are recycled on site. We are also trialling similar techniques for small scale patching and pothole repairs, see below for information on Roadmender.
Doing this reduces the need to bring in new materials and the number of lorry movements is reduced making an overall co2 reduction compared with a traditional treatment. These environmental benefits alone have been a great reason to utilise this process but it is also a lot cheaper than doing a traditional treatment.
Fire breathing Dragons could be joined by a new breed
We have been sending our fleet of Dragon Patchers out onto the county’s roads for a few years now and their talent for fixing large numbers of rural potholes, and sealing the surrounding surface, is well known.
Their work will continue, but the hunt is always on for new technology and methods to keep the highways in good shape.
A recent trial of a Road Mender patching unit, which heats the existing road surface combined with some additional material then rolled, leaving seamless repairs, recycling of old surface material in a relatively quick process, has been viewed favourably.
It is hoped that this portable machine can be put to use again in 2019 and, by then, we hope to have a more catchy name for it.
Warming up to cooler materials
Not every cost saving technique is high-tech. Our engineers are now looking at using more ‘warm mix asphalt’ to surface roads. This type of material means that it doesn’t need to be heated to as higher temperature reducing the energy needed. It also allows the road to be opened quicker meaning you can get more done and don’t need to wait as long before traffic can use the newly surfaced area.
The concrete screed we used on Woodstock Road provides a stronger rut resistant surface course by filling in the voids between the aggregate with concrete. While slightly more expensive initially using this on areas like bus stops and bus lanes will hopefully prevent problems such as surface rutting caused by the regular movement of heavy vehicles.
Putting things to the test
County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “Money is a major factor when it comes to improving the condition of our roads and we need to do all we can get to get the most out of it.
“New ways of doing things need to be tested in real life situations to see how they perform. We have had some real successes which have gone from trials to business as usual, meaning our money goes further.
“One such trial has been the Paco Patch which is a system to repair the roads around loose or damaged drains and man holes. A trail last year led to some 250 Paco Patch repairs with only two problems reported.
“Of course sometimes the trials in Oxfordshire and elsewhere show up problems and that experience is just as valuable. If something fails to perform we don’t use it until the problems have been addressed.”