Concrete road pavement: what are the advantages?

The first concrete road pavement it dates back to 1891 in Ohio, USA, and is on a road that can still be traveled today by passing in front of the statue of the person who built it, a certain George Bartholomev. What you can see is still the original surface because concrete, a conglomerate in which the binding element is made up of cement, has a much higher durability than bitumen-asphalt.

The technique of concrete road pavement, which has recently been talked about a lot as a sustainable alternative to asphalt roads, has spread to Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Austria and the UK as well as to the USA and Canada, but not to Italy. And it is a pity (which can be remedied) because on the advantages-disadvantages the cement-based wear mat beats the asphalt.

The problem with the roads is the maintenance costs. In the territory of the province of Bergamo (an example we have news of) 16 million euros are spent to patch up holes and cracks. Not every year the same figure, but this is the order of magnitude. It is conceivable that with streets in concrete maintenance costs could be much lower.

But there is a road and a road. There concrete pavement it has no counter-conditions on motorways, expressways, ring roads and in general on high-speed networks, but on urban roads it can become a problem when it happens to have to demolish the mantle to intervene on underground services. Concrete is more difficult to crack than asphalt and this would raise overall costs instead of reducing them.

Another critical point of the concrete road pavement is that it is more complicated to make than asphalt, although in the countries where it is used they have developed proven techniques. Concrete has a high durability but it depends on its composition (if you use a little cement to save money it is a disaster). A good concrete road may require a greater initial plant investment than one in bitumen (approximately + 26% is calculated) even if it pays off.

But let's get to the advantages, which are more numerous. A concrete road pavement it has a longer useful life than asphalt, and it can take 20-30 years before structural maintenance is required. In the countries where they are used the most, for example in Canada, the time horizon reaches 50 years. Considering that the break-even point of costs is around 10 years, the economic convenience is all there.

There concrete road pavement it reduces the fuel consumption of vehicles because it has lower tire rolling resistance. This is demonstrated by the results of tests carried out, also in Canada, by the National Research Council in collaboration with research institutes.

Another environmental advantage of the concrete road pavement compared to asphalt is the reduced impact in the concrete mixing phase, but not only. In all phases of construction, maintenance and recycling, the pollution of cementitious materials is far less than that of bituminous materials.

Overall, the concrete road pavement it has many advantages (economic and environmental) and few disadvantages. This makes it considered a solution to be taken into consideration for some types of roads, which is also beginning to be done in Italy.