The Need to Maintain and Protect our Roads and Infrastructure
The major roadways in Atlanta are heavily traveled every day of the year. And not just with commuters, but with tourist vehicles and tractor trailers, too. Atlanta is a major junction for motorists traveling to and from Florida, and those making cross country interstate connections. Its location is central to the needs of tractor trailers making deliveries across America and from Georgia’s port cities and ports in Florida and South Carolina.
Roadworks is a program to resurface sections of a number of major interstates around Atlanta and throughout the state. This large undertaking of repaving and maintenance along the interstates will give Georgia and its citizens an advantage in preserving one of our most valuable assets – our transportation system.
Overall highway travel in the United States is about three trillion miles—the highest level in years—with an additional 20.5 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2010 than the year before. This greatly impacts the service life of roadways. More vehicles cause more wear and tear on the interstates compounding the need for investments, such as resurfacing, to protect the infrastructure. Recent data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) highlights the need for maintaining roads and bridges to enhance safety, promote economic development and ensure a usable system for the future.
As the Department prepares to undertake a season of major resurfacing work around the Atlanta metro area and throughout Georgia, several key points should be kept in mind.
Roadways, whether concrete or asphalt, have a lifespan just like every other product.
For roads, the life cycle covers about 15 years: design, construction, initial deterioration (usually unnoticeable to the eye), visible deterioration, and disintegration/failure.
Once a road is constructed and opened to traffic, the initial deterioration immediately begins.
Initial deterioration, which may include small cracks, stress points and even settling, is generally repairable if caught early enough. As time passes and more small repairs are made, the road begins to exhibit visible signs of deterioration like large cracks, uneven breaks and parts of material missing. Maintenance crews may still be able to repair some of these issues, and often a fresh coat of asphalt can be applied as a remedy. However, if this preventive maintenance is not accomplished, the roadway eventually reaches a point beyond repair, when disintegration and failure are imminent.
Today, in Georgia there is an extensive list of outstanding maintenance needs that, once completed, will help keep the roads useable for the future.
Each year, the Department carries out as many resurfacing and repaving projects as possible during the spring and summer seasons (since that is when there are the best weather conditions for these activities). By embarking on the resurfacing now, the life cycle of the pavement can be extended for years, and provide a more comfortable surface for vehicles traveling on the roads.
Delaying maintenance needs such as resurfacing leads to a much greater cost and a longer project timeline to bring roadways back to useable conditions.
For example, currently the majority of interstates around the Metro area can be brought back to life with minimal milling (removal of material) of between 2‐3 inches. However, once a road has reached the point of disintegration, as much as 9 inches of milling and possibly even new rebar may be required. This type of work is a total reconstruction and generally costs $14 for every $1 that would have been spent if action had been taken earlier.