University asphalt lab works on new road tech to prevent potholes

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COLUMBIA - When the winter ends, and the weather gets warmer, pothole season begins.

“This year is a big problem. There are potholes everywhere on Edgewood Avenue right now,” said Leticia Felix, who lives in Columbia.

Public works said it usually fixes potholes within one day of reports.

“Some days we might get one report, another day five, or we may go two or three weeks without a call. Our street crews respond immediately when we get a pothole report and when they go out they may see other potholes in the area and fill those as well,” Columbia Public Works said in a statement.

But what if the potholes weren't such problems in the first place? That's what some researchers hope to help fix.

Professor Bill Buttlar from the Mizzou Asphalt Pavement and Innovation Laboratory works every day with his colleagues at the asphalt pavement lab to make roads last longer.

“The base of the pavements in this area are anywhere from 60-80 years old in many cases. We have brick pavements that are over a 100 years old, so they’ve far exceeded their design life, and we are keeping them alive by resurfacing normally with asphalt. And that becomes a very big challenge to continue the life of a pavement that has far exceeded its original design. But there are more localized points of fillers, and those are what we call potholes,” Buttlar said.

Buttlar said science is working to make better results and keep the potholes away from the roads for longer period.

“I would say scientific combination of recycled materials, high quality asphalt and rock ingredients can be solution to pushing those potholes way down the road into our future so that they don’t show up just a few years after construction. We’d like to see those occur 20 years down the road, not 5 years,” Buttlar said.

The researchers in fact have managed to find a new structure of asphalt that is going to be used for the first time on Interstate 35 in Kansas in few weeks.

“Believe it or not... a very fine powder of ground tire rubber can be used to turn the asphalt more into a strong gel. And that will hold the rocks together,” Buttlar said.