KENT COUNTY — Many local drivers will be testing out a new type of asphalt that could be used throughout the rest of the state in future road projects.
Construction started along M-57 through Kent County in June and has moved its way closer to Greenville when it reached Oakfield Township last week.
Although the construction is now coming to an end, local residents who frequent the new asphalt might notice a difference for years to come.
A new type of asphalt using crumb rubber was used during the construction on the stretch closest to Greenville, according to Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) spokesman John Richard.
“It’s the first time the crumb rubber is being used (on the roadway) in the state,” Richard said, noting MDOT has tried the material in parking areas. “It’s going to attract a lot of activity.”
The activity includes MDOT overseeing how the mixture holds up to see if it is suitable for other types of road projects in the future.
Richard explained crumb rubber is made of recycled rubber material from items like old tires. The crumb rubber is mixed with asphalt, making it not only cheaper for MDOT to use as it does not need as much of the product, but more durable, cooler, smoother, sound resistant, easier to spread and it’s part of a green initiative.
“If it performs well, we will use it again,” Richard said.
Many other states, including Arizona, Alaska, Texas, New Jersey and others — along with other countries — have been using crumb rubber in asphalt mixtures for a quite a long time.
“It has been very successful,” he said.
Doug Nintzel, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), said the state began using what is frequently call rubberized asphalt in the 1970s.
“Our use of rubberized asphalt ramped up along rural highways in the 1980s,” Nintzel said. “We received even more attention when a decision was made to add a thin layer — about and inch thick — on top of our concrete freeways in the Phoenix area starting last decade.”
He stated in the cooperative effort with local cities, the thin layer was added to reduce freeway traffic noise, which has been proven to work by lowering tire noise in higher-speed urban freeways.
“Local residents have been pleased with the noise reduction,” Nintzel noted.
Some of the reasons ADOT began using the mixture included its positive characteristics of durability — especially crack resistance — and smooth riding surface. Nintzel said it has been a positive experience so far with the thin layer in the Phoenix area, as well.
Nintzel said although ADOT is not certain of what the “normal lifespan” for the rubberized asphalt surface is, it has lasted much longer than the decade that ADOT hopes a pavement overlay would last.
“We like its long-lasting durability, its smoothness and the fact that it provides a way to recycle millions of old tires that otherwise might be in landfills,” he said. “We have found that it holds up well across the state, from our cooler mountain regions, to the hot desert climate.”
Since using rubberized asphalt, Nintzel said ADOT will continue to use it.
“It’s worked out well here in Arizona,” he said. “We get high marks for the overall condition of our state highways, and we plan to continue using the rubberized pavement for its durability and smoothness.”
The construction on M-57 is about a one month project, with a completion date set for July 31.
Richard said a majority of the project took place between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., as temperatures were cooler and there was less traffic. Painting and rumble strips will be placed during daytime hours, however.
The resurfacing of M-57 from Northland Drive to Morgan Mills Avenue is in the end of what was three phases. The first phase (the middle section of the stretch) used regular asphalt. The second phase, which was the area closest to Northland Drive, used a polymer compound mix, and the third phase is the section closest to Greenville using the crumb rubber asphalt.
For more information about upcoming road projects throughout the state, visit www.michigan.gov/mdot.