Published in 2006
Recent studies on long-life flexible pavements indicate that it may be advantageous to design and construct asphalt mixtures comprising the underlying layers in such a manner that very dense mixtures are produced. This will improve not only the fatigue characteristics but also durability through a decrease in air voids. A 19.0 mm mixture was designed and tested at asphalt contents (ACs) higher than the optimum design level. Stiffer binder and recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) were employed to help maintain stiffness in order to prevent instability. The field voids were predicted to decrease approximately 1.0 to 1.5 percent for each 0.4 percent increase in AC, which would improve durability. Flexural stiffness peaked for an 0.5 percent increase in AC, and fatigue life trended upward but needed approximately 1.0 percent additional asphalt for a major beneficial effect. Permeability improved slightly as AC was increased. The researchers think that the Hamburg test would have been more appropriate for this study than the tensile strength ratio test, which indicated no improvement in stripping susceptibility with an increased AC, because it might simulate field conditions better. In addition, the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide Software (Version 0.900) was used to evaluate trial pavement designs with several design alternatives, including varying the binder performance grade, effective binder volume, and air void content to determine the resultant changes in predicted fatigue cracking and rutting of hot-mix asphalt (HMA) layers. This theoretical pavement analysis indicated that increasing the binder content of the HMA intermediate layer beyond the design optimum and increasing the stiffness of the intermediate layer by increasing the high-temperature binder performance grade slightly decreased the predicted fatigue cracking and reduced the rutting of the HMA layers. The analysis also showed that more significant reductions in the predicted fatigue cracking could be realized by increasing the binder content of the HMA base layer slightly beyond the optimum and by reducing the in-place air void content of the HMA base layer. It was recommended that VTRC should further investigate the effects of higher binder contents and lower air voids on the performance of base mixes. Further study of current void criteria to verify optimum pavement performance is also recommended. This project provides a steppingstone to achieve long-lasting perpetual-type flexible pavement. Designs with a high binder content offer the potential to reduce fatigue cracking 20 to 60 percent by incorporating additional asphalt binder and reducing the void content of asphalt base. The use of RAP to maintain the necessary stiffness for high binder contents should provide comparable stiffness to an increasingly expensive PG 70-22 binder for base material. Some effort is taking place in 2007 for reducing voids in base mixes with high RAP content; however, quantification of the economic benefits from that endeavor will be a future goal.
G. W. Maupin, Jr., P.E.
Last updated: November 25, 2023