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2 Flexible Pavement Basics

Flexible pavements are so named because Major Topics in this Section

the total pavement structure deflects, or
2. Basic Structural Elements
flexes, under loading. A flexible pavement
structure is typically composed of several
layers of material. Each layer receives the 2. Perpetual Pavements
loads from the above layer, spreads them 2
out, then passes on these loads to the next
layer below. Thus, the further down in the pavement structure a particular layer is,
the less load (in terms of force per area) it must carry (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2: Flexible Pavement Load Distribution

In order to take maximum advantage of this property, material layers are usually
arranged in order of descending load bearing capacity with the highest load bearing
capacity material (and most expensive) on the top and the lowest load bearing
capacity material (and least expensive) on the bottom. This section describes the
typical flexible pavement structure consisting of:

• Surface course. This is the top layer and the layer that comes in contact with
traffic. It may be composed of one or several different HMA sublayers.
• Base course. This is the layer directly below the HMA layer and generally
consists of aggregate (either stabilized or unstabilized).
• Subbase course. This is the layer (or layers) under the base layer. A subbase
is not always needed.

After describing these basic elements, this section then discusses subsurface drainage
and perpetual pavements.

2.1 Basic Structural Elements

A typical flexible pavement structure (see Figure 2.3) consists of the surface course
and the underlying base and subbase courses. Each of these layers contributes to
structural support and drainage. The surface course (typically an HMA layer) is the
stiffest (as measured by resilient modulus) and contributes the most to pavement
strength. The underlying layers are less stiff but are still important to pavement
strength as well as drainage and frost protection. A typical structural design results in
a series of layers that gradually decrease in material quality with depth.

Figure 2.3: Basic Flexible Pavement Structure

As seen in Figure 2.4, a flexible pavement structure can vary greatly in thickness. The
signs on top of the pictured cores indicate the State Route (SR) and the Mile Post
(MP) where the core was taken. The scale at the right edge of the photo is in inches.
Figure 2.4: Various Flexible Pavement Cores from Washington State

2.1.1 Surface Course

The surface course is the layer in contact with traffic loads and normally contains the
highest quality materials. It provides characteristics such as friction, smoothness,
noise control, rut and shoving resistance and drainage. In addition, it serves to
prevent the entrance of excessive quantities of surface water into the underlying base,
subbase and subgrade (NAPA, 2001). This top structural layer of material is
sometimes subdivided into two layers (NAPA, 2001):

1. Wearing Course. This is the layer in direct contact with traffic loads. It is
meant to take the brunt of traffic wear and can be removed and replaced as it
becomes worn. A properly designed (and funded) preservation program
should be able to identify pavement surface distress while it is still confined to
the wearing course. This way, the wearing course can be rehabilitated before
distress propagates into the underlying intermediate/binder course.
2. Intermediate/Binder Course. This layer provides the bulk of the HMA
structure. It's chief purpose is to distribute load.

2.1.2 Base Course

The base course is immediately beneath the surface course. It provides additional
load distribution and contributes to drainage and frost resistance. Base courses are
usually constructed out of:
1. Aggregate. Base courses are most typically constructed from durable
aggregates (see Figure 2.5) that will not be damaged by moisture or frost
action. Aggregates can be either stabilized or unstabilized.
2. HMA. In certain situations where high base stiffness is desired, base courses
can be constructed using a variety of HMA mixes. In relation to surface
course HMA mixes, base course mixes usually contain larger maximum
aggregate sizes, are more open graded and are subject to more lenient

Figure 2.5: Limerock Base Course Undergoing Final Grading

2.1.3 Subbase Course

The subbase course is between the base course and the subgrade. It functions
primarily as structural support but it can also:

1. Minimize the intrusion of fines from the subgrade into the pavement structure.
2. Improve drainage.
3. Minimize frost action damage.
4. Provide a working platform for construction.

The subbase generally consists of lower quality materials than the base course but
better than the subgrade soils. A subbase course is not always needed or used. For
example, a pavement constructed over a high quality, stiff subgrade may not need the
additional features offered by a subbase course so it may be omitted from design.
However, a pavement constructed over a low quality soil such as a swelling clay may
require the additional load distribution characteristic that a subbase course can offer.
In this scenario the subbase course may consist of high quality fill used to replace
poor quality subgrade (over excavation).
2.2 Perpetual Pavements
"Perpetual Pavement" is a term used to describe a long-lasting structural design, construction and
maintenance concept. A perpetual pavement can last 50 years or more if properly maintained and
rehabilitated. As Michael Nunn pointed out in 1998, flexible pavements over a minimum strength are
not likely to exhibit structural damage even when subjected to very high traffic flows over long periods
of time. He noted that existing pavements over about 370 mm (14.5 inches) should be able to
withstand an almost infinite number of axle loads without structural deterioration due to either fatigue
cracking or rutting of the subgrade. Deterioration in these thick, strong pavements was observed to
initiate in the pavement surface as either top-down cracking or rutting. Further, Uhlmeyer et al. (2000)
found that most HMA pavements thicker than about 160 mm (6.3 inches) exhibit only surface-initiated
top-down cracking. Therefore, if surface-initiated cracking and rutting can be accounted for before
they impact the structural integrity of the pavement, the pavement life could be greatly increased.

Researchers have used this idea as well as pavement materials research to develop a
basic perpetual pavement structural concept. This concept uses a thick asphalt over a
strong foundation design with three HMA layers, each one tailored to resist specific
stresses (TRB, 2001):

1. HMA base layer. This is the bottom layer designed specifically to resist
fatigue cracking. Two approaches can be used to resist fatigue cracking in the
base layer. First, the total pavement thickness can be made great enough such
that the tensile strain at the bottom of the base layer is insignificant.
Alternatively, the HMA base layer could be made using an extra-flexible
HMA. This can be most easily accomplished by increasing the asphalt
content. Combinations of the previous two approaches also work.
2. Intermediate layer. This is the middle layer designed specifically to carry
most of the traffic load. Therefore it must be stable (able to resist rutting) as
well as durable. Stability can best be provided by using stone-on-stone
contact in the coarse aggregate and using a binder with the appropriate high-
temperature grading.
3. Wearing surface. This is the top layer designed specifically to resist surface-
initiated distresses such as top-down cracking and rutting. Other specific
distresses of concern would depend upon local experience.

In order to work, the above pavement structure must be built on a solid foundation.
Nunn (1998) notes that rutting on roads built on subgrade with a CBR greater than 5
percent originates almost solely in the HMA layers, which suggests that a subgrade
with a CBR greater than 5 percent (resilient modulus greater than about 7,000 psi (50
MPa)) should be considered adequate. As always, proper construction techniques are
essential to a perpetual pavement's performance. Figure 2.6 shows an example cross-
section of a perpetual pavement design to be used in California on I-710 (the Long
Beach Freeway) in Los Angeles County.

Figure 2.6: Example I-710 Long Beach Freeway Perpetual Pavement Design
(from Monismith and Long, 1999)

Finally, the most important point in this brief perpetual pavement discussion is that it
is possible to design and build HMA pavements with extremely long design lives. In
fact, some HMA pavements in service today are living examples of perpetual
pavements. For instance, two sections of Interstate 40 in downtown Oklahoma City
are now more than 33 years old (built in 1967) and are still in excellent condition.
These sections, which support 3 to 3.5 million ESALs per year, have been overlaid
but the base and intermediate courses have lasted since construction without any
additional work (APA, no date given).

Flexible Pavement Types

Major Topics on this Page
There are many different types of flexible
pavements. This section covers three of the 3. Dense-Graded Mixes
more common types of HMA mix types used 1
in the U.S. Other flexible pavements such as 3. Stone Matrix Asphalt Mixes
bituminous surface treatments (BSTs) are 2
considered by most agencies to be a form of
3. Open-Graded Mixes
maintenance and are thus covered under
Module 10, Maintenance & Rehabilitation.
HMA mix types differ from each other 3. Mix Selection Guidance
mainly in maximum aggregate size, 4
aggregate gradation and asphalt binder
content/type. This Guide focuses on dense-graded HMA in most flexible pavement
sections because it is the most common HMA pavement material in the U.S. This
section provides a brief exposure to:

• Dense-graded HMA. Flexible pavement information in this Guide is generally

concerned with dense-graded HMA. Dense-graded HMA is a versatile, all-
around mix making it the most common and well-understood mix type in the
• Stone matrix asphalt (SMA). SMA, although relatively new in the U.S., has
been used in Europe as a surface course for years to support heavy traffic
loads and resist studded tire wear.
• Open-graded HMA. This includes both open-graded friction course (OGFC)
and asphalt treated permeable materials (ATPM). Open-graded mixes are
typically used as wearing courses (OGFC) or underlying drainage layers
(ATPM) because of the special advantages offered by their porosity.

This section is taken largely from the NAPA's HMA Pavement Mix Type Selection
Guide (2001). In addition to the general information presented here, the HMA
Pavement Mix Type Selection Guide provides specific information on minimum lift
thicknesses, mix selection criteria, mix materials as well as several informative

3.1 Dense-Graded Mixes

A dense-graded mix is a well-graded HMA mixture intended for general use. When
properly designed and constructed, a dense-graded mix is relatively impermeable.
Dense-graded mixes are generally referred to by their nominal maximum aggregate
size. They can further be classified as either fine-graded or coarse-graded. Fine-
graded mixes have more fine and sand sized particles than coarse-graded mixes (see
Table 2.1 for definitions of fine- and coarse-graded mixes).

Purpose: Dense-graded mixes are suitable for all pavement layers and for all
traffic conditions. They work well for structural, friction, leveling
and patching needs.

Materials: Well-graded aggregate, asphalt binder (with or without modifiers),


Mix Superpave, Marshall or Hveem procedures.


Other Info: Particulars about dense-graded HMA are covered by flexible

pavement sections in the rest of this Guide.

Table 2.1: Fine- and Course-Graded Definitions for Dense-Graded HMA (from
NAPA, 2001)

Mixture Nominal Maximum

Coarse-Graded Mix Fine-Graded Mix
Aggregate Size
37.5 mm (1.5 inches) < 35 % passing the 4.75 mm (No. 4 Sieve) > 35 % passing the 4.75 mm (No. 4 Sieve)

25.0 mm (1.0 inch) < 40 % passing the 4.75 mm (No. 4 Sieve) > 40 % passing the 4.75 mm (No. 4 Sieve)

19.0 mm (0.75 inches) < 35 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve) > 35 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve)

12.5 mm (0.5 inches) < 40 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve) > 40 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve)

9.5 mm (0.375 inches) < 45 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve) > 45 % passing the 2.36 mm (No. 8 Sieve)

3.2 Stone Matrix Asphalt (SMA) Mixes

Stone matrix asphalt (SMA) is a gap-graded HMA (see Figure 2.7) that is designed to
maximize deformation (rutting) resistance and durability by using a structural basis of
stone-on-stone contact (see Figures 2.8, through 2.12). Because the aggregates are all
in contact, rut resistance relies on aggregate properties rather than asphalt binder
properties. Since aggregates do not deform as much as asphalt binder under load, this
stone-on-stone contact greatly reduces rutting. SMA is generally more expensive than
a typical dense-graded HMA (about 20 - 25 percent) because it requires more durable
aggregates, higher asphalt content and, typically, a modified asphalt binder and
fibers. In the right situations it should be cost-effective because of its increased rut
resistance and improved durability. SMA, originally developed in Europe to resist
rutting and studded tire wear, has been used in the U.S. since about 1990 (NAPA,
Purpose: Improved rut resistance and durability. Therefore, SMA is almost
exclusively used for surface courses on high volume interstates and
U.S. roads.

Materials: Gap-graded aggregate (usually from coarse aggregate, manufactured

sands and mineral filler all combined into a final gradation), asphalt
binder (typically with a modifier)

Mix Superpave or Marshall procedures with modifications. Refer to

Design: NAPA's Designing and Constructing SMA Mixtures: State-of-the-
Practice, QIP 122 (1999) publication or NCHRP Report 425:
Designing Stone Matrix Asphalt Mixtures for Rut-Resistant

Other Because SMA mixes have a high asphalt binder content (on the order
Info: of 6 percent), as the mix sits in the HMA storage silos, transport
trucks, and after it is placed, the asphalt binder has a tendency to
drain off the aggregate and down to the bottom - a phenomenon
known as "mix draindown". Mix draindown is usually combated by
adding cellulose or mineral fibers to keep the asphalt binder in place.
Cellulose fibers are typically shredded newspapers and magazines,
while mineral fibers are spun from molten rock. A laboratory test is
run during mix design to ensure the mix is not subject to excessive

In mix design a test for voids in the coarse aggregate (AASHTO T

19) is used to ensure there is stone-on-stone contact.

Other reported SMA benefits include wet weather friction (due to a

coarser surface texture), lower tire noise (due to a coarser surface
texture) and less severe reflective cracking. Mineral fillers and
additives are usually added to minimize asphalt binder drain-down
during construction, increase the amount of asphalt binder used in the
mix and to improve mix durability.

Figure 2.7: Typical SMA and Dense-Graded HMA Aggregate Gradations

Figure 2.8: SMA Structure

Figure 2.9: SMA Aggregate Structure. Figure 2.10: Dense-Graded HMA (left) vs.
Notice the stone-on-stone contact of the SMA (right). (it is a bit more shiny from
larger aggregate particles. the extra asphalt binder)

Figure 2.11: Dense-Graded HMA (left) Figure 2.12: SMA Pavement Surface
vs. SMA (right). Notice the SMA has a
better-defined large aggregate skeleton
(from NAPA, 2001)

3.3 Open-Graded Mixes

An open-graded HMA mixture is designed to be water permeable (dense-graded and

SMA mixes usually are not permeable). Open-graded mixes use only crushed stone
(or gravel) and a small percentage of manufactured sands. There are three types of
open-graded mixes typically used in the U.S.:
1. Open-graded friction course (OGFC). Typically 15 percent air voids, no
minimum air voids specified, lower aggregate standards than PEM.
2. Porous European mixes (PEM). Typically 18 - 22 percent air voids, specified
minimum air voids, higher aggregate standards than OGFC and requires the
use of asphalt binder modifiers. See Figure 2.13.
3. Asphalt treated permeable bases (ATPB). Less stringent specifications than
OGFC or PEM since it is used only under dense-graded HMA, SMA or PCC
for drainage. See Figure 2.14.

Purpose: OGFC and PEM - Used as for surface courses only. They reduce tire
splash/spray in wet weather and typically result in smoother surfaces
than dense-graded HMA. Their high air voids trap road noise and
thus reduce tire-road noise by up to 50-percent (10 dBA) (NAPA,

ATPB - Used as a drainage layer below dense-graded HMA, SMA or


Materials: Aggregate (crushed stone or gravel and manufactured sands), asphalt

binder (with modifiers)

Mix Less structured than for dense-graded or SMA mixes. Open-graded

Design: mix design generally consists of 1) material selection, 2) gradation,
3) compaction and void determination and 4) asphalt binder drain-
down evaluation. NCAT Report 99-3: Design of New-Generation
Open Graded Friction Courses provides a recommended mix design
procedure for OGFCs.

Other Both OGFC and PEM are more expensive per ton than dense-graded
Info: HMA, but the unit weight of the mix when in-place is lower, which
partially offsets the higher per-ton cost. The open gradation creates
pores in the mix, which are essential to the mix's proper function.
Therefore anything that tends to clog these pores, such as low-speed
traffic, excessive dirt on the roadway or deicing sand, should be
Figure 2.13: Core from a Pavement Using Figure 2.14: Asphalt Treated Permeable Base
PEM as the Wearing Course (from NAPA,

3.4 Mix Selection Guidance

Based on the previous information, there are some general rules for HMA mix type
use, which are summarized in Table 2.2. Notice that, as discussed, dense-graded
HMA is generally appropriate for all uses, SMA and OGFC (and PEM) are typically
used as surface courses on high volume roads and ATPB is usually used for base
courses on high volume roads. Keep in mind that Table 2.2 is just a summary of
general guidance and that there are, as always, case specific exceptions.

Table 2.2: General Appropriateness of Mix Types For Each HMA Layer (NAPA,

Low Traffic Medium Traffic High Traffic

(300,000 - 10 million
(< 300,000 ESALs) (> 10 million ESALs)
Course ESALs)
e A C B e A C B e A C B



Note: Before deciding to use ATPB, the
= Appropriate Pavement Research Center's research
results should be carefully considered.
= Moderately
= Not

3.4.1 Determining Appropriate Mix Types

Most of this process is taken directly from the NAPA HMA Pavement Mix Type
Selection Guide (2001).

1. Determine the total thickness of HMA required. This is accomplished using

an appropriate structural design procedure.
2. Determine the types of mixtures appropriate for the surface course based on
traffic and cost.
o From Table 2.2, identify the general traffic category for the pavement
in question then select those mix types that are appropriate for the
surface course.
o Determine what aggregate size to use for a mix. In general, the higher
the traffic loads, the higher the nominal maximum aggregate size
should be.
o Consider appearance. Mixes with larger aggregates often have a
coarser surface texture and may be more susceptible to segregation
during placement. Therefore, for a city street where appearance is an
issue, a finer mix such as a 9.5 or 12.5-mm (0.375 or 0.5-inch) dense-
graded mix may be appropriate. Conversely, for a heavy industrial
area where load resistance is much more important that aesthetic
appearance, a 19.0-mm (0.75-inch) mix may be more appropriate.
However, never sacrifice performance for appearance.
o Consider traffic flow. Maximum aggregate size can also affect traffic
flow during rehabilitation of existing roadways. In many urban areas
off-peak construction is used to minimize traffic impacts. However,
for a road to be released to traffic during peak hours, either the lane
drop-off (elevation difference between adjacent lanes) must be kept
below a specified minimum value (typically less than 37.5 mm (1.5
inches) with proper signage) or all lanes must be brought to the same
elevation. Bringing all lanes to the same elevation at the end of each
paving day may require changing traffic control and moving paving
equipment, which can increase construction costs and decrease safety.
Therefore it is often better to satisfy the lane drop-off requirement.
However, with larger aggregate mixes the minimum lift thickness may
exceed the maximum lane drop-off allowed. As a result, using a finer
gradation may allow paving one lane, then releasing the road to traffic,
then paving the other lane. Again, do not sacrifice performance.
3. Subtract the surface course
thickness from the total
thickness and determine
what mix or mixes are
appropriate for the
intermediate and/or base
courses using Table 2.2.
4. Continue to subtract
intermediate/base course
Major Topics on this Page
4. Hot Recycling
4. Cold Recycling
thicknesses from the total thickness until mixes and layer thicknesses have
been selected for the required pavement section.

4 Flexible Pavement Recycling

HMA is one of the most recycled products in the U.S. It is estimated that as much as
91 million tonnes (100 million tons) of HMA are milled off roads during resurfacing
and widening projects each year (APA, 2001a). Of this amount, 73 million tonnes (80
million tons) are recycled as "reclaimed asphalt pavement" (RAP - see Figure 2.15)
(APA, 2001a). RAP is typically generated by rehabilitation or reconstruction projects
and can be used in a variety of ways such as:

Figure 2.15: RAP Pile in Eastern Washington State

• As an addition to regular HMA.

• As an aggregate in cold-mix asphalt.
• As a granular base course when pulverized.
• As a fill or embankment material.
HMA recycling can be divided into two
basic categories based on the recycling
methods used: hot recycling and cold
recycling. This section presents the basic
recycling process as well as typical uses
and considerations for each of these
recycling methods.

4.1 Hot Recycling

Figure 2.16: RAP in Aggregate-Sized Chunks

Hot recycling is so named because RAP is used as an aggregate in HMA (hot mix
asphalt). In hot recycling, old HMA pavement is removed, broken down into
aggregate-sized chunks (see Figure 2.16) and then incorporated into new HMA as an
aggregate. There are two basic methods for accomplishing this: conventional
recycled hot mix (RHM) and hot in-place recycling.

4.1.1 Recycled Hot Mix (RHM)

Recycled hot mix (RHM) is the most common way of using RAP. Basically, new
HMA is produced at a batch or drum plant to which a predetermined percentage of
RAP is added. RAP addition is typically 10 to 30 percent by weight although
additions as high as 80 percent by weight have been done and additions as high as 90
to 100 percent by weight are feasible (FHWA, 2001c). There is ample evidence that
HMA which incorporates RAP performs as well as HMA without RAP. Figure 2.17
shows two dense-graded HMA cores, one with RAP and one without.

Purpose: Anything for which a typical dense-graded HMA may be


Materials: HMA and RAP

Mix Design: Superpave, Marshall or Hveem procedures. Blending charts

are typically needed when using high percentages of RAP.

Other Info: When heated, RAP may give off gaseous hydrocarbons. To
minimize these emissions, HMA plants generally heat RAP
indirectly (usually it is added after the aggregate is heated
and thus heats up through contact with the already-hot

RAP addition may require longer HMA plant heating times.

This can sometimes reduce plant output by as much as half.

RAP generally contains between 3 and 7 percent asphalt by

weight or about 10 to 20 percent asphalt by volume (FHWA,
2001c). In general, RAP will be more viscous than new
HMA because of asphalt binder aging. Therefore, if enough
RAP is added, a softer asphalt binder should be used. Table
2.3 shows the AASHTO MP 2 Superpave asphalt binder
selection guidelines for RAP mixtures.

In general, state DOTs allow more RAP in base and binder

HMA courses than they do in surface courses.

After milling or crushing, RAP gradation is generally finer

than pure virgin aggregate because of the degradation that
occurs during removal and processing.

Table 2.3: Superpave Asphalt Binder Selection Guidelines for RAP Mixtures (from
AASHTO, 2001)

RAP Percentage Recommended Virgin Asphalt Binder Grade

< 15 No change from basic Superpave PG binder requirements.
Select virgin binder one grade softer than normal
15 - 25
(e.g., select at PG 58-22 if a PG 64-22 would normally be used).
> 25 Follow recommendations from blending charts.
Figure 2.17: HMA Cores from a RAP Mix and a non-RAP Mix

4.1.2 Hot In-Place Recycling (HIPR)

Hot in-place recycling (HIPR) is a less common form of hot asphalt recycling. There
are three basic HIPR construction processes in use, all of which involve a specialized
plant in a continuous train operation (FHWA, 2001c):

• Heater scarification (Figure 2.18). This method uses a plant that heats the
pavement surface (typically using propane radiant heaters), scarifies the
pavement surface using a bank of nonrotating teeth, adds a rejuvenating agent
to improve the recycled asphalt binder viscosity, then mixes and levels the
recycled mix using a standard auger system. The recycled asphalt pavement is
then compacted using conventional compaction equipment. Heater
scarification is limited in its ability to repair severely rutted pavements, which
are more easily rehabilitated with a conventional HMA overlay.
Figure 2.18: Heater Scarification Train Showing 2 Preheaters, the Heater/Scarifier,
the Paver and Rollers.

• Repaving. This method removes (by heating and scarification and/or

grinding) the top 25 to 50 mm (1 to 2 inches) of the existing HMA pavement,
adds a rejuvenating agent to improve the recycled asphalt binder viscosity,
places the recycled material as a leveling course using a primary screed, and
simultaneously places a thin (usually less than 25 mm (1 inch)) HMA overlay.
Conventional equipment and procedures are used immediately behind the train
to compact both layers of material (Rathburn, 1990 as cited in FHWA, 2001c).
• Remixing. This method is used when additional aggregate is required to
improve the strength or stability. Remixing is similar to repaving but adds new
virgin aggregate or new HMA to the recycled material before it is leveled.

Purpose: Correct shallow-depth HMA surface distress

Materials: Asphalt binder rejuvenating agent and possibly new

aggregate and HMA.

Mix Design: Not well-defined, but as a minimum cores are usually taken
from the existing pavement to determine the proper amount
of rejuvenating agent to add.

Other Info: HIPR is only applicable to specific situations. First, air void
content of the existing asphalt binder must be high enough to
accept the necessary amount of asphalt binder rejuvenator.
Second, HIPR can only adequately address shallow surface
distress problems (less than 50 mm (2 inches)). Third,
pavements with delaminations (subsequent layers not
binding together) in the top 50 mm (2 inches) should not be
considered for HIPR projects. Finally, pavements that have
been rutted, heavily patched, or chip-sealed are not good
candidates for HIPR projects (FHWA, 2001c).

4.2 Cold Recycling

Cold recycling is so named because RAP is used as an aggregate in cold mix asphalt.
In cold recycling, old HMA pavement is removed, broken down into aggregate-sized
chunks and then combined with an emulsified or foamed asphalt. This mix is then
typically used as a stabilized base course for reconstructed pavements. There are two
basic cold recycling methods: cold plant mix recycling and cold in-place recycling

4.2.1 Cold Plant Mix Recycling

Cold plant mix recycling, the less common of the two cold recycling methods,
involves mixing RAP with an asphalt emulsion or foamed asphalt at a central or
mobile plant facility. A rejuvenating agent can be added to improve the recycled
asphalt binder viscosity and new aggregate can also be added to improve overall
performance. The resulting cold mix is then typically used as a stabilized base

Purpose: Stabilized base course.

Materials: RAP, asphalt emulsion or foamed asphalt, asphalt

rejuvenating agent and possibly virgin aggregate.

Mix Design: No generally accepted mix design method, but the Asphalt
Institute recommends and most agencies use a variation of
the Marshall mix design method (FHWA, 2001b).

Other Info: Since cold in-place recycling has become more

commonplace, cold plant mixing has become less popular.

4.2.2 Cold In-Place Recycling (CIR)

Cold in-place recycling (CIR) is the processing and treatment with bituminous and/or
chemical additives of existing HMA pavements without heating to produce a restored
pavement layer (AASHTO, 1998). It involves the same process of cold plant mix
recycling except that it is done in-place by a train of equipment. The typical CIR
process involves seven basic steps (AASHTO, 1998):

1. Milling. A milling machine pulverizes a thin surface layer of pavement,

usually from 50 to 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) deep.
2. Gradation control. The pulverized material is further crushed and graded to
produce the desired gradation and maximum particle size. On some jobs this
step is omitted, however on others a trailer mounted screening and crushing
plant is used to further crush and grade the pulverized pavement. If needed,
virgin aggregate can be added to the recycled material.
3. Additive incorporation. The graded pulverized material is mixed with a
binding additive (usually emulsified asphalt, lime, portland cement or fly
ash). On some jobs, this is done by the milling machine, however on others a
trailer mounted pugmill mixer is used.
4. Mixture placement. The pulverized, graded pavement and additive
combination is placed back over the previously milled pavement and graded to
the final elevation. Mixture placement is most often done with a traditional
asphalt paver (either through windrow pickup or by depositing the mixture
directly into the paver hopper), however on some very low traffic applications
the mixture can be placed by a motor grader. Because of the larger maximum
aggregate sizes of the graded mixture, the minimum lift thickness for
placement is usually around 50 mm (2 inches).
5. Compaction. The placed mixture is compacted to the desired density. Typical
compaction efforts involve a large pneumatic tire roller and a large vibratory
steel wheel roller. If an emulsion additive is used rolling is typically delayed
until the emulsion begins to break. If a portland cement or fly ash additive is
used, rolling should begin immediately after placement.
6. Fog seal. If the newly placed material is to operate as a high quality gravel
road then a fog seal is usually applied over the top to delay surface raveling of
the cold recycled mix. A fog seal is necessary over CIR using a portland
cement or fly ash additive not only to delay surface raveling but also to
provide a curing membrane for the additive to properly set.
7. Surface course construction. On higher volume roads, the cold recycled mix
is overlaid with either a BST or a thin HMA overlay. In either case, a tack
coat should be used to provide a good bond between the cold recycled mix and
the surface course.

Purpose: Stabilized base course or a low volume road granular surface


Materials: Recycled material and a binding additive (usually asphalt

emulsion, lime, portland cement or fly ash).

Mix Design: No generally accepted mix design method, but most methods
are based on the Marshall or Hveem methods and equipment
(AASHTO, 1996).

Other Info: CIR is best suited for cracked pavements with structurally
sound, well drained bases and subgrades. CIR is generally
not appropriate for repairing pavement failures caused by:

• Rutting from excessive asphalt content or mix

• Wet, unstable base, subbase or subgrade materials
• Frost action
• Stripping

CIR is generally suitable for lower volume roads that may

only require a simple surface treatment over the resulting
stabilized base course, or at most a thin HMA wearing
course (Better Roads, 2001).

For projects using an asphalt emulsion additive, typical

specified minimum atmospheric temperatures range from 10
to 16°C (50 to 60°F). For projects using
portland cement or fly ash as the additive, the
minimum required temperature is 4°C (39°F)
with no freezing temperatures expected in the
next 24 hours (AASHTO, 1998).

CIR requires sunny, dry conditions in order for

the additive to properly set.

If an asphalt emulsion additive is used, it is

usually added at a rate of between 0.5 to 2
percent by weight of RAP.

4.2.3 Full-Depth Reclamation (FDR)

Although referred to as "full-depth reclamation", this process is just an extension of

the basic CIR principles to the entire HMA pavement depth plus a predetermined
depth of the base material. FDR can be used to depths of 300 mm (12 inches) or more
but the most typical applications involve depths of between 150 and 225 mm (6 and 9
inches) (Better Roads, 2001). The FDR process usually consists of eight steps (Better
Roads, 2001):

1. Pulverization. A road reclaimer pulverizes existing pavement to a

predetermined depth. Road reclaimers are usually equipped to add materials
such as stabilizing agents to the newly pulverized RAP.
2. Moisture conditioning. The road reclaimer or a separate truck adds water to
the newly pulverized RAP to assist in achieving required density.
3. Breakdown roller. A sheepsfoot or pneumatic tire roller is typically used to
compact the recently pulverized RAP to a consistent density.
4. Shaping. A grader is typically used to make grade and cross-slope
5. Intermediate roller. A pneumatic tire roller or a steel wheel vibratory roller is
used to knead and seat any loose aggregates left from the shaping process.
6. Finish roller. A 12 to 14-ton static steel wheel roller is used to seat any
remaining loose aggregates and create a smooth surface.
7. Sealant. A fog seal is typically applied to protect the finished reclaimed
layer. After the fog seal sets the reclaimed layer can generally withstand
interim traffic loading. Therefore, at this point the road is often opened to
traffic until the contractor is ready to apply the surface treatment or HMA
surface course.
8. Surface treatment or surface course. Finally, a more durable surface
treatment or surface course is applied over the new stabilized base course.

Purpose: Stabilized base course.

Materials: Recycled material, asphalt emulsion or foamed asphalt,

asphalt rejuvenating agent and possibly virgin aggregate.

Mix Design: No generally accepted mix design method, but the Asphalt
Institute recommends and most agencies use a variation of
the Marshall mix design method (FHWA, 2001b).

Other Info: FDR is generally suitable for lower volume roads that may
only require a simple surface treatment over the resulting
stabilized base course, or at most a thin HMA wearing
course. However, FDR has been used on major highways
including interstates (Better Roads, 2001).

5 Rigid Pavement Basics Major Topics on this Page

5. Basic Structural Elements
Rigid pavements are so named because the 1
pavement structure deflects very little under
5. Joints
loading due to the high modulus of elasticity
of their surface course. A rigid pavement
structure is typically composed of a PCC 5. Load Transfer
surface course built on top of either (1) the 3
subgrade or (2) an underlying base course. 5. Tie Bars
Because of its relative rigidity, the pavement 4
structure distributes loads over a wide area
with only one, or at most two, structural layers (see Figure 2.19).

Figure 2.19: Rigid Pavement Load Distribution

This section describes the typical rigid pavement structure consisting of:
• Surface course. This is the top layer, which consists of the PCC slab.
• Base course. This is the layer directly below the PCC layer and generally
consists of aggregate or stabilized subgrade.
• Subbase course. This is the layer (or layers) under the base layer. A subbase
is not always needed and therefore may often be omitted.

5.1 Basic Structural Elements

A typical rigid pavement structure (see Figure 2.20) consists of the surface course and
the underlying base and subbase courses (if used). The surface course (made of PCC)
is the stiffest (as measured by resilient modulus) and provides the majority of
strength. The underlying layers are orders of magnitude less stiff but still make
important contributions to pavement strength as well as drainage and frost protection.

Figure 2.20: Basic Rigid Pavement Structure

5.1.1 Surface Course

The surface course is the layer in contact with traffic loads and is made of PCC. It
provides characteristics such as friction (see Figure 2.21), smoothness, noise control
and drainage. In addition, it serves as a waterproofing layer to the underlying base,
subbase and subgrade. The surface course can vary in thickness but is usually
between 150 mm (6 inches) (for light loading) and 300 mm (12 inches) (for heavy
loads and high traffic). Figure 2.22 shows a 300 mm (12 inch) surface course.

Figure 2.21: PCC Surface Figure 2.22: Rigid Pavement Slab

(Surface Course) Thickness

5.1.2 Base Course

The base course is immediately beneath the surface course. It provides (1) additional
load distribution, (2) contributes to drainage and frost resistance, (3) uniform support
to the pavement and (4) a stable platform for construction equipment (ACPA,
2001). Bases also help prevent subgrade soil movement due to slab pumping.
Base courses are usually constructed out of:

1. Aggregate base. A simple base course of crushed aggregate has been a

common option since the early 1900s and is still appropriate in many
situations today.
2. Stabilized aggregate or soil (see Figure 2.23). Stabilizing agents are used to
bind otherwise loose particles to one another, providing strength and
cohesion. Cement treated bases (CTBs) can be built to as much as 20 - 25
percent of the surface course strength (FHWA, 1999). However, cement
treated bases (CTBs) used in the 1950s and early 1960s had a tendency to lose
excessive amounts of material leading to panel cracking and settling.
3. Dense-graded HMA. In situations where high base stiffness is desired base
courses can be constructed using a dense-graded HMA layer.
4. Permeable HMA. In certain situations where high base stiffness and excellent
drainage is desired, base courses can be constructed using an open graded
HMA. Recent research may indicate some significant problems with ATPB
5. Lean concrete (see Figure 2.24). Contains less portland cement paste than a
typical PCC and is stronger than a stabilized aggregate. Lean concrete bases
(LCBs) can be built to as much as 25 - 50 percent of the surface course
strength (FHWA, 1999). A lean concrete base functions much like a regular
PCC surface course and therefore, it requires construction joints and will crack
over time. These joints and cracks can potentially cause reflection cracking in
the surface course if they are not carefully matched.

Figure 2.23: Completed CTB with Curing

Figure 2.24: Lean Concrete Base Material

5.1.3 Subbase Course

The subbase course is the portion of the pavement structure between the base course
and the subgrade. It functions primarily as structural support but it can also:

1. Minimize the intrusion of fines from the subgrade into the pavement structure.
2. Improve drainage.
3. Minimize frost action damage.
4. Provide a working platform for construction.

The subbase generally consists of lower quality materials than the base course but
better than the subgrade soils. Appropriate materials are aggregate and high quality
structural fill. A subbase course is not always needed or used.

5.2 Joints

Joints are purposefully placed discontinuities in a rigid pavement surface course. The
most common types of pavement joints, defined by their function, are (AASHTO,
1993): contraction, expansion, isolation and construction.

5.2.1 Contraction Joints

A contraction joint is a sawed, formed, or tooled groove in a concrete slab that creates
a weakened vertical plane. It regulates the location of the cracking caused by
dimensional changes in the slab. Unregulated cracks can grow and result in an
unacceptably rough surface as well as water infiltration into the base, subbase and
subgrade, which can enable other types of pavement distress. Contraction joints are
the most common type of joint in concrete pavements, thus the generic term "joint"
generally refers to a contraction joint.

Contraction joints are chiefly defined by their spacing and their method of load
transfer. They are generally between 1/4 - 1/3 the depth of the slab and typically
spaced every 3.1 - 15 m (12 - 50 ft.) with thinner slabs having shorter spacing (see
Figure 2.25). Some states use a semi-random joint spacing pattern to minimize their
resonant effect on vehicles. These patterns typically use a repeating sequence of joint
spacing (for example: 2.7 m (9 ft.) then 3.0 m (10 ft.) then 4.3 m (14 ft.) then 4.0 m
(13 ft.)). Transverse contraction joints can be cut at right angles to the direction of
traffic flow or at an angle (called a "skewed joint", see Figure 2.27). Skewed joints
are cut at obtuse angles to the direction of traffic flow to help with load transfer. If
the joint is properly skewed, the left wheel of each axle will cross onto the leave slab
first and only one wheel will cross the joint at a time, which results in lower load
transfer stresses (see Figure 2.28).
Figure 2.25: Rigid Pavement Showing Figure 2.26: Missing Contraction Joint
Contraction Joints (The middle lane contraction joint was
not sawed resulting in a transverse slab
crack. The outer lanes have proper
contraction joints and therefore, no

Figure 2.27: Skewed Contraction Joint

(The Tining is Perpendicular to the Direction of Travel While the Contraction Joint is

Figure 2.28: Skewed

Contraction Joint
Notice how the tire loads cross
the joint one at a time. This
introduces the axle load to the
leave slab one tire at a time
rather than all at once (as would
be the case for a 90-degree
transverse joint).

5.2.2 Expansion Joints

An expansion joint is placed at a specific location to allow the pavement to expand

without damaging adjacent structures or the pavement itself. Up until the 1950s,
it was common practice in the U.S. to use plain, jointed slabs with
both contraction and expansion joints (Sutherland, 1956).
However, expansion joint are not typically used today because their progressive
closure tends to cause contraction joints to progressively open (Sutherland, 1956).
Progressive or even large seasonal contraction joint openings cause a loss of load
transfer — particularly so for joints without dowel bars.

5.2.3 Isolation Joints

An isolation joint (see Figure 2.29) is used to lessen compressive stresses that
develop at T- and unsymmetrical intersections, ramps, bridges, building
foundations, drainage inlets, manholes, and anywhere differential movement
between the pavement and a structure (or another existing pavement) may take
place (ACPA, 2001). They are typically filled with a joint filler material to prevent
water and dirt infiltration.
Figure 2.29: Roofing Paper Used for an Isolation Joint

5.2.4 Construction Joints

A construction joint (see Figure 2.30) is a joint between slabs that results when
concrete is placed at different times. This type of joint can be further broken down
into transverse and longitudinal construction joints (see Figure 2.31). Longitudinal
construction joints also allow slab warping without appreciable separation or cracking
of the slabs.

Figure 2.30: Construction


Workers manually insert

dowel bars into the
construction joint at the end
of the work day.

Construction joints should be

planned so that they coincide
with contraction joint spacing
to eliminate extra joints.

Figure 2.31: Longitudinal and

Transverse Construction

5.3 Load Transfer

"Load transfer" is a term used to describe the transfer (or distribution) load across
discontinuities such as joints or cracks (AASHTO, 1993). When a wheel load is
applied at a joint or crack, both the loaded slab and adjacent unloaded slab deflect.
The amount the unloaded slab deflects is directly related to joint performance. If a
joint is performing perfectly, both the loaded and unloaded slabs deflect equally.
Load transfer efficiency is defined by the following equation:

where ∆ =
approach slab deflection
: a

∆ =
leave slab deflection

This efficiency depends on several factors, including temperature (which affects joint
opening), joint spacing, number and magnitude of load applications, foundation
support, aggregate particle angularity, and the presence of mechanical load transfer
devices. Figure 2.32 illustrates the extremes in load transfer
efficiency. Most performance problems with concrete pavement are a result of
poorly performing joints (ACPA, 2001). Poor load transfer creates high slab
stresses, which contribute heavily to distresses such as faulting, pumping and
corner breaks. Thus, adequate load transfer is vital to rigid pavement
performance. Load transfer across transverse joints/cracks is generally
accomplished using one of three basic methods: aggregate interlock, dowel bars,
and reinforcing steel.

Figure 2.32: Load Transfer Efficiency Across a PCC Surface Course Joint

5.3.1 Aggregate Interlock

Aggregate interlock is the mechanical locking which forms between the fractured
surfaces along the crack below the joint saw cut (see Figure 2.33) (ACPA, 2001).
Some low-volume and secondary road systems rely entirely on aggregate
interlock to provide load transfer although it is generally not adequate to provide
long-term load transfer for high traffic (and especially truck) volumes. Generally,
aggregate interlock is ineffective in cracks wider than about 0.9 mm (0.035
inches) (FHWA, 1990). Often, dowel bars are used to provide the majority of
load transfer.
Figure 2.33: Aggregate Interlock

5.3.2 Dowel Bars

Dowel bars are short steel bars Figure 2.34: Typical Dowel Bar Location
that provide a mechanical connection
between slabs without restricting
horizontal joint movement. They on Transverse Joints
increase load transfer efficiency by
allowing the leave slab to assume
some of the load before the load is
actually over it. This reduces joint deflection and stress in the approach and
leave slabs.

Dowel bars are typically 32 to 38 mm (1.25 to 1.5 inches) in

diameter, 460 mm (18 inches) long and spaced 305 mm (12
inches) apart. Specific locations and numbers vary by state,
however a typical arrangement might look like Figure 2.34. In
order to prevent corrosion, dowel bars are either coated with
stainless steel (see Figure 2.35) or epoxy (see Figure 2.36). Dowel
bars are usually inserted at mid-slab depth and coated with a bond-
breaking substance to prevent bonding to the PCC. Thus, the
dowels help transfer load but allow adjacent slabs to expand and
contract independent of one another. Figure 2.36 shows typical
dowel bar locations at a transverse construction joint.
Figure 2.35: Stainless Steel-Clad Dowel Bars Figure 2.36: Dowel Bars in Place at a Construction Joint-
(Epoxy Coating on Ends Only) the Green Color is from the Epoxy Coating

5.3.3 Reinforcing Steel

Reinforcing steel can also be used to provide load transfer. When reinforcing steel is
used, transverse contraction joints are often omitted (as in CRCP). Therefore, since
there are no joints, the PCC cracks on its own and the reinforcing steel provides load
transfer across these cracks. Unlike dowel bars, reinforcing steel is bonded to the
PCC on either side of the crack in order to hold the crack tightly together.

Typically, rigid pavement reinforcing steel consists of grade 60

(yield stress of 60 ksi (414 MPa) No. 5 or No. 6 bars (ERES, 2001).
The steel constitutes about 0.6 - 0.7 percent of the pavement cross-sectional area
(ACPA, 2001) and is typically placed at slab mid-depth or shallower. At least 63 mm
(2.5 inches) of PCC cover should be maintained over the reinforcing steel to minimize
the potential for steel corrosion by chlorides found in deicing agents (Burke, 1983).

5.4 Tie Bars

Tie bars are either deformed steel bars or connectors used to hold the faces of abutting
slabs in contact (AASHTO, 1993). Although they may provide some minimal
amount of load transfer, they are not designed to act as load transfer devices and
should not be used as such (AASHTO, 1993). Tie bars are typically used at
longitudinal joints (see Figure 2.37) or between an edge joint and a curb or shoulder.
Typically, tie bars are about 12.5 mm (0.5 inches) in diameter and between 0.6 and
1.0 m (24 and 40 inches long).
Figure 2.37: Tie Bars Along a Longitudinal Joint