There are about 3,100,000 miles of rural roads across America. Many of these are winding old farm-to-market routes that have been rehabbed over the years to accommodate traffic from the residential subdivisions that have replaced some of these farms. During this transition, some of the curves have been removed and speed limits have been increased as these 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 of the reasons for this carnage is the fact that unlike state highways, rural roads are, for the most part, without 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 at speed limit speeds — that most drivers ignore — 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, this drop-off may remain for considerable time until the adjacent lane is pulled. During this time as the work zone rolls, traffic is asked to traverse this drop-off. Night travel brings with it more excitement and danger as the edge becomes more difficult to see.
In New York State, the Schenectady County Road Department decided to take some action. They recently outfitted one of their I-R/Blaw-Knox pavers with two devices from TransTech designed in part to alleviate these 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 much 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.
Joe Ryan, director of Public Works for Schenectady County, explains, "These TransTech devices really help us, both during the paving of one of our county roads and beyond. The joint maker helps us to achieve joint densities approaching those we see in the middle of the mat. Which 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."
One recent job was County Road 121, better known as North Mansion Road, in the town of Duanesburg. The Schenectady County Department of Public Works was overlaying the road with a 12.5mm Type Six mix. The length of the project was approximately 1.5 miles, two lanes. The paver was equipped with both the TransTech 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 of this effort.