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Pavement Quality – The Forgotten Subject


These days there is a lot of discussion about climate change and its impact on pavement
infrastructure, including construction and performance. Green technologies, including alternative
materials and recycling, and sustainable transportation also get a lot of attention. These subjects
are important and the authors of this paper have written numerous papers on this. However, there
is one subject that has somewhat became forgotten. This is pavement quality.
It is expected that since production and paving technology is getting better, and there are
advanced and innovative materials, the issue of pavement quality has been solved and does not
need attention. However, the reality is just the opposite. There are alarming voices in a number
of provinces and among municipalities that pavement quality has drastically decreased. It is
common to hear that in the past, pavements lasted 20 years, and recently you are lucky if you get
half of this, and there are examples of dramatic premature failures. Some of this may be due to
excessive traffic loading or extreme climate, but this are rare cases. More frequently, the problem
is that the quality is ignored and taken for granted.
Pavement quality starts with pre-engineering, proper geotechnical investigation, analysis, design,
appropriate specifications and quality construction. Reducing the geotechnical investigation to the
bare minimum, or sometimes not doing it at all, is the first step to compromising quality. There is
the same concern with pavement design, squeezing it to the minimum and assuming overly
optimistic parameters. There are also numerous examples of implementing an inappropriate
rehabilitation treatment. This is particularly a problem on alternative finance and procurement
projects where there is less independent checking and testing. Substandard materials,
inadequate design thickness and poor construction practice combine to increase risk of premature
failure. Too often, Quality Assurance field and laboratory testing is reduced to the minimum or not
required at all. This is particularly the case on projects where performance specifications are
followed. On these projects, the contractors control themselves and QA testing is considered an
unnecessary expense. But is it? Pavements that last half as long or less of what they should are
very costly for tax payers.
This paper includes examples of pavements where poor investigation, design and construction
practice or the use of substandard materials were reflected in compromised performance. It also
includes recommendations of how to address the problems based on the authors’ extensive
experience in pavement and materials engineering.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Investing in Road Construction: Building Canada’s Economy
Uzarowski, L.
Rizvi, R.
Maher, M.
Rizzo, J.
Construction, Maintenance and operations