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Paving the way

Collaborative asphalt project to improve roads in N.L.


By Jackey Locke

A project led by Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science researchers aims to improve asphalt used in pavement in the province’s capital.

A harsh, unique climate is largely to blame for the generally bumpy ride in St. John’s.

Dr. Kamal Hossain, an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil Engineering who is currently an assistant professor at Carleton University; Dr. Carlos Bazan, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering; and their research team, are investigating ways to improve the asphalt mixture used in pavement to help provide a smoother ride.

Climate and traffic volume

The City of St. John’s is responsible for the construction, management and maintenance of approximately 1,400 lane kilometres of paved roads.

The design and performance of asphalt pavement largely depends on local climate factors and traffic volume. Therefore, a thorough investigation of the design and performance of asphalt under the particular geo-weather and loading conditions is necessary.

That’s where the expertise of Drs. Hossain and Bazan and their team comes in.

“The main goal of the research project is to reduce the rate of occurrence of rutting and moisture-induced damage, the main causes of stress on the city’s roads,” said Dr. Hossain. “We aim to do this by designing and developing improved asphalt binder and asphalt mixtures appropriate for St. John’s environmental and loading conditions.”

‘Immediate impact’

The researchers are working collaboratively with the city and Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization working with universities, companies and federal and provincial governments to build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada to solve the problem.

“Mitacs is pleased to support this collaborative research project between the City of St. John’s and Memorial, which can have an immediate impact on improving asphalt roads in St. John’s and beyond,” said Libby Carew, director of business development in Newfoundland and Labrador at Mitacs.

“There is potential for this project to . . . provide an improved driving experience for motorists in St. John’s.” — Mayor Danny Breen

Mayor Danny Breen says the partnership is an important one.

“Our roads are critical to the economy of the city and the region as we see the movement of thousands of vehicles throughout our city daily,” he said.

“Due to frequent freeze/thaw cycles, along with heavy equipment use, our roads incur a lot of damage through the winter and spring. There is potential for this project to improve the durability and quality of our asphalt, reduce cost on repairs, and provide an improved driving experience for motorists in St. John’s.”

For their part, Drs. Hossain and Bazan echo the enthusiasm, thanking the city and Mitacs for their continued support to research at Memorial.

Dr. Carlos Bazan
Dr. Carlos Bazan
Photo: Submitted

The joint project, which began in the fall of 2019 and is based on the results of a field study conducted in 2017 by Memorial University, has been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is expected to fulfil most of its objectives by the fall of 2022.

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