Composite Pavement Systems: Synthesis of Design and Construction Practices

Report No: 09-CR2

Published in 2008

About the report:

Composite pavement systems have shown the potential for becoming a cost-effective pavement alternative for highways with high and heavy traffic volumes, especially in Europe.  This study investigated the design and performance of composite pavement structures composed of a flexible layer (top-most layer) over a rigid base.  The report compiles (1) a literature review of composite pavement systems in the U.S. and worldwide; (2) an evaluation of the state-of-the-practice in the U.S. obtained using a survey; (3) an investigation of technical aspects of various alternative composite pavement systems designed using available methodologies and mechanistic-empirical pavement distress models (fatigue, rutting, and reflective cracking); and (4) a preliminary life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) to study the feasibility of the most promising composite pavement systems.

Composite pavements, when compared to traditional flexible or rigid pavements, have the potential to become a cost-effective alternative because they may provide better levels of performance, both structurally and functionally, than the traditional flexible and rigid pavement designs.  Therefore, they can be viable options for high volume traffic corridors.  Countries, such as the U.K. and Spain, which have used composite pavement systems in their main road networks, have reported positive experiences in terms of functional and structural performance.  Composite pavement structures can provide long-life pavements that offer good serviceability levels and rapid, cost-effective maintenance operations, which are highly desired, especially for high-volume, high-priority corridors. 

Composite pavements mitigate various structural and functional problems that typical flexible or rigid pavements tend to present, such as hot-mix asphalt (HMA) fatigue cracking, subgrade rutting, portland cement concrete (PCC) erosion, and PCC loss of friction, among others.  At the same time, though, composite systems are potentially more prone to other distresses, such as reflective cracking and rutting within the HMA layer.  Premium HMA surfaces and/or reflective cracking mitigation techniques may be required to mitigate these potential problems.

At the economic level, the results of the deterministic agency-cost LCCA suggest that the use of a composite pavement with a cement-treated base (CTB) results in a cost-effective alternative for a typical interstate traffic scenario.  Alternatively, a composite pavement with a continuously reinforced concrete pavement (CRCP) base may become more cost-effective for very high volumes of traffic.  Further, in addition to savings in agency cost, road user cost savings could also be important, especially for the HMA over CRCP composite pavement option because it would not require any lengthy rehabilitation actions, as is the case for the typical flexible and rigid pavements. 

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Last updated: December 10, 2023

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