The State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) – a partnership among PennDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and other public- and private-sector partners – is continuously looking for ways to market upcoming innovations to transportation stakeholders. One of the innovations, hot pour mastics, was showcased in a first-of-its-kind demonstration on July 17 in a parking lot near the PennDOT Materials Testing Laboratory.
Stacey Cleary, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Asphalt Material Applicants, noted that many states have adopted the use of hot pour mastics. She said it is the next step after crack sealing, and it is used for wider and deeper cracks.
"This material is designed to fill (holes) 2 inches or bigger and go deeper (than routine crack sealing)," she said. "It helps seal cracks and prevent water from getting in."
This sort of maintenance activity helps head off pothole formation, Cleary noted, and can be used to smooth out joints between bridge decks and adjacent pavements.
"While it is not familiar to PennDOT, we know that it works," she said.
One of the benefits of the new material is that it stays flexible even at lower temperatures, meaning long-lasting fixes can be completed during winter and spring.
Cleary added that it is not merely a ride-improvement benefit, but also helps protect and preserve pavement surfaces.
"It is a preservation technology," she said.
York County's West Manheim Township Manager Marc Woerner applauded PennDOT for giving the opportunity to come out and see the product.
In his role, Woerner said, "We have about 8,500 residents in the southwest corner of York County. As township manager, it is my responsibility to bring recommendations to the board, so they can make decisions."
With the cost of building and maintaining a local road network growing, Woerner mentioned that "maintenance costs are always extremely high, but maintenance is cheaper than reconstruction. But if we can find a product here that will match our needs relative to maintenance, that's a large improvement and hopefully cut our costs in the long run."
PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration George McAuley told the participants that he was excited about the opportunity to see the physical deployment of the innovation.
"We brought it to Pennsylvania through the State Transportation Innovation Council," he said.
Matt Briggs, chief of PennDOT's New Products and Innovations Section, said the applications from the other vendors are under review. He said the STIC Maintenance Technical Advisory Group is working to secure the required approvals by the end of the year, and the challenge has been to identify the specifications for the materials.
Harrisburg City Council Member Dave Madsen, who is chair of the council's Community and Economic Development Committee, said he attended the session to "look and learn."
"We have a lot of potholes and cracks," he said. "It's a major concern."
He noted that with the state Capitol complex located in Harrisburg, the city's population doubles during the work day. At the same time, half of the property in the city is not taxable and the city has a 30-percent poverty rate. With all the commuters putting so much pressure on infrastructure within the city, he is especially interested in pursuing "partnering with PennDOT to explore new products and technology as a cost-effective way to fix and improve roads, prolong their usable life, and not put the burden of preventable roadway reconstruction projects on taxpayers."
After the demonstrations, Madsen said he was impressed.
"The vendors gave good presentations … It was beneficial. … I'm excited to further explore hot pour mastics and their potential use in Harrisburg," he said.
PennDOT District 5 (Allentown Region) Executive Mike Rebert noted that the materials could be used to deal with a tough statewide issue – longitudinal cracks on expressways.
"This is something we have struggled with for years," he noted.
At the STIC meeting immediately after the demonstration, McAuley applauded the practical benefits the event offered.
"It was great, not just to think about new products, but to see how they are deployed," he said.
McAuley also suggested that PennDOT would assist with training for local governments through LTAP on application of hot pour mastics.
"It is critical to understand what the products will do so we don't use them in the wrong place," he said.
More information on the Pennsylvania STIC can be found at www.penndot.gov/STIC.