Superpave Regional Centers Set Implementation Strategies
John R. Bukowski, Highway Engineer
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Technology Applications
(This article is reprinted with permission from the Summer 1996 Issue, Volume 10, No. 1 of ASPHALT, The Magazine of The Asphalt Institute.)
Five Superpave Regional Centers are defining plans and activities for 1996 as well as developing strategies for long term goals and coordination with other State DOTs and the asphalt industry.
The Regional Centers are located at Auburn University in Alabama, Purdue University in Indiana, University of Nevada at Reno, Penn State University at State College Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas at Austin. They were established through a government/industry partnership to research the more technically complex issues of Superpave.
Initially, the Centers will be used to evaluate the Superpave Shear Tester, the critical device associated with Superpave mix analysis. They will also be used by states to perform mix analysis for some critical paving projects in their regions. The Centers will also provide Superpave training locally to engineers and technicians. The Asphalt Institute is playing a central role in coordinating the activities of the five Centers and the asphalt industry in developing and implementing the Superpave mix design and analysis system. A recent meeting at the Asphalt Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, to discuss goals and activities of the Superpave Centers brought together representatives of state highway agencies, FHWA Division offices, and university researchers from the five regions at the Asphalt Institute in Lexington. One result of the discussions was an increased coordination with all state agencies and private industry in using the Centers. Another result was the decision to advertise the Centers' activities at the AASHTO Materials Committee meeting and at the various User Producer Group meetings.
Although the North Central Superpave Center at Purdue is still under development, its staff has identified some of the key research issues, which include use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) in Superpave mixes, and the use of fine aggregate angularity requirements and use of locally available materials in Superpave mixes. Although it will not become a routine mix design lab, the North Central Center plans to work with surrounding states in its region to do mix designs for experimental or pilot projects.
"Training of local engineers and technicians will be an important part of the North Central Center's mission," says Rebecca McDaniel, Technical Director for the Center. "In fact, we have already given one pilot mix design course to a contractor's staff and have scheduled two more mix design and one binder course that will be open to all. We are making presentations to city and county employees, and also plant to offer a course for consultants who will be designing Superpave projects."
FHWA is the Principle source of Superpave information to the Regional Centers, but it uses the Asphalt Institute to disseminate this information to the Regional Centers and to the highway industry directly. "The Institute has already been a big help in providing training, technical information and advice, as well as reports manuals, and course materials for our use," says McDaniel. "The North Central Center looks forward to working closely with FHWA, the Asphalt Institute, the states and the other Regional Centers to implement and advance Superpave technology."
The South Central Superpave Center will emphasize the Superpave Shear Tester in some of its work. One of its objectives will be to investigate whether the Shear Tester can be simplified without sacrificing utility.
The South Central Superpave Center also plans to provide various levels of training for State DOTs the asphalt industry, and university staff, says Bob McGennis the Project Manager for the Center. "We hope to form partnerships with other groups such as the other Centers, FHWA, and Asphalt Institute to provide training. We have already worked with the North Central Superpave Center to provide training in Indiana and in the near future, we will partner with the Western Regional Superpave Center to train Wyoming DOT personnel."
McGennis envisions state agencies and other organizations working with the Superpave Centers. "If we are practical and aggressive in our applied research activities, and if we advertise our success stories, the states and industry will work with us." As an example, he said that the Superpave Center at Austin has already developed a loaned-staff arrangement with the Oklahoma and Louisiana DOTs. The Texas Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement Association has also expressed interest in providing loaned staff. "We are excited about these arrangements because it allows us to utilize the expertise of seasoned DOT and industry professionals while training them in the principles of Superpave."
The Western Regional Superpave Center at Reno is proceeding to develop programs that are responsive to the needs of the surrounding states. "The first program that the Center is working on is a training/certification program for Superpave binder testing," says Center Director Jon Epps. Others will include technician training for binder and volumetric design, and workshops for engineers to understand the technical basis for Superpave specification limits and tests.
At the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Auburn, Alabama which also functions as the Southeastern Superpave Center, Director Ray Brown says that "our near-term vision for the Center is to provide assistance to the HMA contractors, DOTs, and asphalt suppliers in our region with the initial implementation of Superpave." Brown says this assistance will include training, trouble shooting, conducting round robins and accomplishing research studies to evaluate various aspects of Superpave technology. The Southeastern Center's long-term vision will include the development of full Superpave mix designs-volumetric and mixture analysis-and the conduct of research studies to develop improved aggregates, gradations and binders for HMA pavements.
The five Superpave Centers have already begun to coordinate projects and to work together. "I am impressed and encouraged by the spirit of cooperation expressed by each Center," says McDaniel. "I think we all recognize the need to work together to make the Superpave Center concept a success."