Mountain Town Tries Innovative Road Reclamation
Rural Becket, Massachusetts, is trying a new type of full-depth reclamation process (FDR) to rehabilitate a key local road experiencing significant distress from the area's punishing weather and terrain.
The Becket Highway Department, headed by Superintendent Christopher Bouchard, has been overseeing the rehabilitation of Wade Inn Road, a cut-through between U.S. Route 20 and Massachusetts Route 8, in a three-phase operation dating from 2013.
"We had the first section of the road repaired with the FDR process using Portland Cement," said Bouchard, who is also Tree Warden for the rural community of 1,800 people.
"That section cracked. So for the second phase, we advertised the repair as an FDR process using asphalt stabilization. The contractor, Peckham Paving of New York, completed the work in 2014.
"That section still looks good, with no cracking evident.
"This year, All States Asphalt of Sunderland, Massachusetts, rehabilitated the final section of the road, also using the asphalt stabilization process."
Bay State Roads showcased that final section of the project in a training course presented at the Becket Town Hall. Included in the course was a tour of the Wade Inn Road project, underway by All States Asphalt.
Networking to Stay Informed
Responsible for maintaining about 60 miles of roads, of which half are hot-mix asphalt paved and the remaining gravel roads, Superintendent Bouchard is constantly looking for cost-efficient ways to extend the service life of the town's roadways while staying within its limited budget.
To keep up with the latest road improvement technologies, Bouchard networks with many state and local transportation officials through membership in a number of professional organizations. In line with this, he is a member of the Berkshire County Highway Superintendents Association, the Berkshire County representative in the Massachusetts Highway Association, and DPW representative for Homeland Western (Massachusetts) Regional Security Council.
Challenging Mountain Roads
Located in the southern Berkshire mountains, Becket has many steep, winding roads. Wade Inn Road varies in elevation from about 900 feet above sea level at its lowest point to approximately 1,400 feet elevation. And it is not the steepest road in town.
"Yokum Pond Road is the highest road reaching about 2,200 feet elevation, and it has a grade of 14 percent at some places," said Bouchard.
"This is why all of our trucks are single-axle, all-wheel drive vehicles," he added.
He also noted that the depth of frost at that elevation has reached 8 feet at times.
Maintaining steep mountain roads is challenging for a small-town highway department. Becket's department, for instance, consists of only seven people, while an additional three personnel managing the town's transfer station are also his responsibility.
Bouchard said the department maintains the 30 miles of gravel roads by regrading and rolling them twice each year - once in spring and again in fall. He said he is currently looking at setting up a regular pavement management program.
"Massachusetts is now making funds available for rural roads through its Completed Streets Program, and that should help," he said.
While half of Becket's roads are HMA paved, some have very poor bases and may likely require FDR processing.
Wade Inn Road is a case in point, according to Robert Betsold, Technical Marketing Representative for All States Asphalt, a subsidiary of the All States Materials Group that employed the FDR reclamation with asphalt stabilization.
"Wade Inn Road has a traffic count of approximately 500 to 600 vehicles per day," he said. "The road was last paved over 20 years ago, with multiple layers of oil and stone chip seals below the pavement and a mix of clay and bank run gravel base. Over the years, the road has been widened and narrowed several times, resulting in inconsistent materials across the road cross section. Due to postings of a nearby bridge on Route 20, the road saw an increase in truck traffic six to seven years ago, which caused increased deterioration of the pavement. The traffic has since decreased, but the road required rehabilitation due to the damage that was done," said Betsold.
"The existing pavement was exhibiting significant distresses, including moderate rutting, severe cracking and edge failure. There were also multiple culverts that were failing that had to be replaced by the Becket Highway Department prior to the reclamation process."
According to Betsold, in addition to many of the same benefits of traditional full depth reclamation, the asphalt stabilization process provides several additional benefits.
Dozens Attend Training Course
Bay State Roads training course began with presentations in the Town Hall on the FDR with Injected Asphalt Stabilization process and its benefits, then discussed the importance of lab testing for all reclamation projects, and considered a variety of treatment options that can be placed over a road that has been reclaimed with stabilization. Attendees then visited the Wade Inn Road project during the injection phase of the process. Approximately 45 people from across Massachusetts attended the course, including representatives from Massachusetts Department of Transportation, municipal public works directors, highway superintendents, engineers, and industry contractors.
Bay State Roads project coordinators Cindy Schaedig and Brenda Codela were responsible for setting up the training course and coordinating the logistics for classroom and project site visit.
Bay State Roads is one of several major programs of the University of Massachusetts Transportation Center (UMTC). Headed by Chris Ahmadjian, Program Manager, Bay State Roads is a Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). A national effort of the Federal Highway Administration, LTAP is designed to improve access to highway, road, and street technology for local agencies. The program employs a national network of technology transfer centers established in partnership with state highway agencies. LTAP centers such as Bay State Roads develop innovative approaches to achieving technical advancements, and coordinate Federal, State, local, and private industry resources. Since 1986, Bay State Roads has provided continuous service to local departments of public works and highway departments throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.