There are about 3.1 million miles of rural roads across America. Many are old, winding, farm-to-market routes that have been rehabbed over the years to accommodate traffic from the residential subdivisions that have replaced some farmland. During this transition, curves have been removed and speed limits have been increased as the roadways become more functional and busier.
Unfortunately, at the same time, they have become more deadly. In 2003, over 21,000 people were killed on rural roads. One reason is that, unlike state highways, many rural roads don’t have shoulders. These shoulderless highways limit the driver’s exit strategy during emergencies. One deer in the road or nod of the head can become a life or death situation.
Along with the shoulderless road comes the sharp drop-off at the edge of the mat. Even when driving at the speed limit, the instant decision after being yanked off the edge is to ride it out or overreact and possibly swerve back into oncoming traffic — either of which could be disastrous.
Similar circumstances occur during construction, when an overlay creates a drop-off at the centerline. Depending on the length of the job, it may remain this way for considerable time until the adjacent lane is pulled. Traffic is often asked to traverse the drop-off. Night travel brings with it added danger as the edge becomes more difficult to see.
In New York State, the Schenectady County Road Department decided to take some action. It recently outfitted one of its Ingersoll-Rand Blaw-Knox pavers with two devices from TransTech designed in part to alleviate such situations.
The TransTech Notched Wedge Joint Maker was primarily designed to taper the longitudinal joint during laydown for a better interlock, higher density, fewer callbacks and a longer road life at the joint, where roads have been found to deteriorate quickly. As a secondary bonus, the tapered joint provides a mini-ramp for traffic during construction. The taper enables drivers to navigate the jobsite while maintaining control of their vehicles.
The Wedge Joint paved the way for the Safety Edge Maker, a product designed to help reduce the shoulderless edge problem by creating a tapered edge on the outside of the mat.
The benefits were highlighted on a recent job on County Road 121, better known as North Mansion Road, in the town of Duanesburg. The Schenectady County Department of Public Works (DPW) was overlaying the road with a 12.5mm Type Six mix. The length of the project was approximately 1.5 miles and two lanes. The paver was equipped with both the Notched Wedge Joint Maker and the Safety Edge Maker, and tapered edges were obvious on both sides of the mat. The DPW, the county and the taxpaying public are pleased with the results.
“These TransTech devices really help us, both during the paving of one of our county roads and beyond,” says Joe Ryan, director of public works for Schenectady County, NY. “The joint maker helps us to achieve joint densities approaching those we see in the middle of the mat. This means the joint is far stronger and will last, so we won’t have to keep coming back. And as a nice bonus, the tapered edge allows traffic to safely pass us before we pull the adjacent lane.”