Portland cement concrete (PCC) is the most cost-effective, sustainable pavement material available.
Lower overall cost
A typical 40-year asphalt design life requires crack fill maintenance every 2 to 4 years and resurfacing every 8 to 14 years. By comparison, a typical 40-year design life portland cement concrete (PCC) pavement requires minimal maintenance and, depending on use, will not need resurfacing for 30 to 50 years. Depending on the initial cost of asphalt when it was installed and lifecycle maintenance expenses, total cost of ownership for asphalt can be three times that of a similar PCC pavement.
Concrete has been used for hard surface paving for well over 100 years, making it one of the most thoroughly studied and utilized construction materials in use today. We know precisely how to design, prepare, place and finish it for optimum results. Its durability and predictability do not require costly over-engineering.
That’s proven right here in Minnesota’s extreme climate. From Pipestone to Minneapolis, streets constructed of a 6-inch PCC have stood the test of time, providing municipalities a long-lived, low-maintenance city infrastructure serving residents, commerce, industry and institutions. Duluth is home to one of the oldest concrete streets in America, East 7th Street. Paved in 1910, the street is based on a 5 1/4-inch cross section of concrete over a compacted 6-inch sub-base of black cinder and lake gravel, topped with 1 ¾ inches of “Granitoid” scored to simulate pavers.
A 6-inch cross section is often all it takes in many roadway applications. A plain PCC test cell constructed in June 2000 is just 5 inches thick and installed over a subbase that mimics Minnesota’s native soils. The 12-foot-wide lanes are laid in 10-foot-long, un-doweled, jointed slabs. Traffic in one lane is subject to 102,000-pound trucks passing 80 times a day. The road is not just holding up well, it’s exceeding expectations required for normal road use in Minnesota’s extreme and varying climate.
Even concrete’s lighter color pays dividends, both in lifetime maintenance costs and lighting. Ever walk barefoot on asphalt during a bright, hot summer day? Darker colored materials absorb the sun’s light and heat it up, contributing to asphalt’s comparatively higher maintenance costs over time. For this reason, some asphalt mixes contain color-lightening additives. Concrete’s naturally lighter color needs no additives to resist the sun’s damaging rays, thereby reducing maintenance issues over the pavement’s life cycle.
At night, concrete’s reflectivity pays a double dividend by increasing safety and security. Concrete’s lighter color boosts the illuminating ability of street lamps and parking lot lights. There’s no need to increase lamp fixture count or output. Research shows concrete has saved some customers up to 37% in annual energy costs. Some retailers have even reported 3%-5% increases in sales due in part to cooler, brighter, safer environment provided by their concrete lots.
What about the sub base?
Many customers assume that concrete must always be laid over an aggregate base, adding the cost of materials and labor to a job. This is a common misconception. The necessity of a subbase and the type of materials used in its construction are determined on case-by-case basis during project planning.
Doesn’t it need steel reinforcement?
Concrete laid in jointed, plain concrete “panels” controls cracking in light traffic applications. It can be laid without steel mesh or rebar reinforcement.
See what the experts say about concrete paving vs. asphalt.
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