Keeping Roads Smooth Reduces Greenhouse Emissions

A new report shows well-maintained roads can help mitigate climate change.

Keeping Roads Smooth Reduces Greenhouse Emissions
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Maintaining roads to a high standard can help reduce emissions that cause climate change a new Rutgers-led report has found. 

Maintaining road surfaces can reduce greenhouse gases by up to 2 percent; the report that is published in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation states. 

Not only, the good road surfaces are beneficial to the environment, but they can also save drivers 2 percent to 5 percent in fuel consumption, tire wear, vehicle repair and maintenance costs. 

The research should be able to help transportation agencies make informed decisions about road maintenance schedules that adhere to local environmental policies. 

“When pavement is in its early failure stage, preventive maintenance can restore performance and extend pavement life with lower costs,” said study lead author Hao Wang, an associate professor who focuses on infrastructure engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. 

“Pavement preservation leads to significant environmental benefits due to the improved surface condition, which results in smooth pavement, saves energy and reduces user costs.” 

Smooth roads lower vehicle costs 

Transportation is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions particularly carbon dioxide from cars, trucks, and buses. The research took advantage of the long-term pavement performance (LTPP) database maintained by the Federal Highway Administration of U.S. 

Department of Transportation to measure the impact of road repairs in regards to carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming. The study examined the carbon footprint of common methods of road maintenance. 

These treatments included and thin overlay, where roughly 2 inches of asphalt is placed over roads, chip sea a method that involves spraying asphalt emulsion on pavements and laying aggregate, slurry seal that uses a slurry poured over the road and crack seal which fills cracks with rubberized asphalt or polymer-modified asphalt with some filler. 

Smoothing road surface key

The research found that the thin overlay methods result in a 2 percent overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions - the highest of all the methods. 

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This is mainly due to a decrease in road roughness. The crack seal method results in just a 0.5 percent reduction. Keeping roads smooth isn’t the only way that they can be a tool in helping the environment. 

The City of Los Angeles is painting their roads gray in an effort to reduce the effects of rising temperatures. The color black absorbs all wavelengths of light and converts them into heat. 

Cities with high amounts of black asphalt roads, like Los Angeles, feel the effect of the sun heating its surfaces and in turn heating the city. 

To combat this effect, Los Angeles is painting its streets with gray paint called CoolSeal. The light colored paint will hopefully reduce the city’s overall temperature, making it a more pleasant place to live now and in the future. The paint is made by a local Californian company called GuardTop. 

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Initial test areas painted with the gray paint experienced a 6.6 degrees Celsius drop in temperature. 

Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti says, “Climate change is a fact of life that people in Los Angeles and cities around the world live with every day. It is a grave threat to our health, our environment, and our economy — and it is not debatable or negotiable. This is an urgent challenge, and it’s much bigger than one person.”

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