Lansing Bits of tire added to pavement in Lansing area Crumb rubber expected to give longer life to roadway

By Laura Misjak

Lansing State Journal

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- One of the final summer road construction projects to begin in the Lansing area could lead to big savings down the line for state and county road officials.

Ground bits of tire, or crumb rubber, will be mixed into the asphalt on three test sections of Waverly Road between Jolly Road and Interstate 96, where construction began last week to add a third lane, repave and improve other aspects of the roadway.

The project will include drainage improvements, sidewalk ramp upgrades and other repairs.

The crumb rubber is expected to give a longer life to the road, making it less likely to crack and also is quieter -- up to three decibels -- than typical asphalt.

"The most important thing is performance. If it performs as good or better than the asphalt used now, hopefully this technology will be utilized more in Michigan," said Michigan State University assistant professor M. Emin Kutay, who is leading the research in MSU's Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Kutay and several graduate and undergraduate researchers spent last year investigating several ways of adding crumb rubber to asphalt and the combination's effects.

An effective mixture is made by blending the ground tire at high temperatures with the asphalt binder so the tire melts into the binder, and the binder changes its chemical composition, Kutay said.

Lab results showed the crumb rubber-modified asphalt performed better than asphalt alone.

The next step is to test the mixture in the field.

The three segments that will be tested have the same crumb rubber-modified mixture, but different thicknesses. A thinner layer of the modified asphalt could work just as well as a thicker layer of asphalt, Kutay said, which would save officials money on materials in the future.

Although the mixture has been tested and used in other states, such as California and Arizona, this will be the first test in Michigan, Kutay said.

A portion of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grant for $450,000, along with funding from the Federal Highway Administration's Surface Transportation Program and a 20 percent match from the Ingham County Road Commission, is making the $1.06 million project possible.

Ingham County Road Commission's managing director, Bill Conklin, said he was approached by MSU officials regarding the research project and if successful, the new asphalt mixture will have economic and environmental benefits.

"A lot more tires could be granulated and reused instead of put into landfills," said Kutay, who said one mile of the modified asphalt uses about 2,000 tires.

Kutay said he'll monitor the roadway with help from the county for the next several years.

Waverly Road between Jolly Road and Interstate 96 will be closed to through traffic during the project, which is expected to wrap up in November.

Published: Wed, Aug 31, 2011