Asphalt Pavement Overview
Asphalt pavement is one of America’s building blocks. The United States has more than 2.6 million miles of paved roads and highways, and 93 percent of those are surfaced with asphalt. Many of those are full-depth asphalt pavements; others are asphalt overlays used to restore the performance of deteriorating concrete pavements.
Asphalt pavements are easy to maintain, quick to construct, and provide a safe, smooth, quiet ride. Simply put, asphalt pavements provide the greatest level of drivability at the most economical price. For more information about the advantages of asphalt, visit www.driveasphalt.org.
The nation has around 4,000 asphalt plants, at least one in every congressional district. Each year, these plants produce 500 million to 550 million tons of asphalt pavement material worth in excess of $30 billion. The industry supports employment for more than 300,000 Americans. Asphalt pavement material is a precisely engineered product composed of about 95 percent stone, sand, and gravel by weight, and about 5 percent asphalt cement, a petroleum product. Asphalt cement acts as the glue to hold the pavement together.
This uncommon common material gets us from our homes to our workplaces and schools. It allows us access to medical care and emergency assistance. It transports us to places of worship, recreation, and shopping. With modern "just-in-time" inventory systems, the highway is the warehouse, and manufacturers and retailers rely on trucks to get goods to them on schedule.
Asphalt is America’s most recycled material. Reclaimed asphalt is not just reusable as a "black rock" – the asphalt cement in the reclaimed pavement is reactivated to become an integral part of the new pavement. The recycled asphalt cement replaces part of the new asphalt cement required for the pavement, reducing costs for road agencies.
Recycling is just one reason that asphalt is the most sustainable pavement. Asphalt pavements that are designed and constructed as Perpetual Pavements never need to be removed and replaced. They are permanent structures. The only maintenance needed is infrequent (every 20-25 years) replacement of the surface – and the material that is removed is recycled.