Legislation Directs VDOT to Conduct Pilot Projects Using 'Quiet-Pavement' Materials

New technologies could reduce highway tire noise and save money

RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell recently signed legislation that could make the constant loud "whoosh" of car and truck tires on the highway a bit quieter after VDOT repaves the driving surfaces of certain high-speed roads. The legislation directs the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to construct several demonstration projects to further study "quiet-pavement" technologies. These projects will help determine how well the new pavements perform over two winters in Virginia.

"VDOT's research arm, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research, has been a national leader in developing real-world testing scenarios for the latest highway technologies and working with VDOT engineers to implement them for the benefit of all who use Virginia roads," Governor McDonnell said. "These demonstration projects will take results from one recent study and put them to work to make our roads safer and last longer, and to improve the quality of life for those living near the roadways."

Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) sponsored HB 2001, which amends the 2009 Virginia law requiring VDOT to consider using pavement materials that reduce tire noise when resurfacing appropriate roads (Code of Virginia § 33.1-223.2:21).

The Quiet Pavement Task Force is a cooperative group consisting of representatives from VDOT and the asphalt and concrete paving industries. The group studies and identifies roads around the Commonwealth that would be candidates for quiet-pavement installations.

VDOT will install five demonstration projects to assess the performance of such materials for two years. They are all on four-lane, divided high-speed roads with good underlying pavement structures.

The three locations selected for the asphalt "quiet" technologies will be on the Route 7 Bypass in Leesburg, Route 199 west of Williamsburg and Route 288 near Chester. Concrete demonstration projects will be installed on a section of interstate in Hampton Roads and Route 76 (Powhite Parkway) in Richmond.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded the contracts for the quiet asphalt pavement projects at its May 18, 2011, meeting. The concrete projects will be conducted through additions to existing patching contracts.

Following a year-long pilot begun in 2008, VDOT obtained positive results from a quiet-pavement installation on a section of Route 234 in Manassas using a hot-mix asphalt known as "porous friction course," or PFC. This "open-graded mix" allows air and water to seep down from the road surface away from tires. It reduces hydroplaning, tire noise, and splash and spray. The improved drainage also cuts wet-night glare and improves the visibility of road markings.

VDOT's research group, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR), monitored the Route 234 project and found that, based on initial cost and the year-long performance of the material, PFC is cost-competitive with traditional hot-mix asphalts. The VCTIR report on the project is at virginiadot.org.

The "quiet" concrete projects will employ two finishes applied to existing concrete pavements. The first is a simple diamond-grinding process often used to restore ride quality by knocking off high spots in the pavement. The second is a multi-step process, which follows the diamond-grinding process with a smoother grind and a longitudinal groove. The second finish was designed specifically to reduce tire-pavement noise. This will be the first time the second process will be used in Virginia.

As required in the new law, VDOT will provide an interim report on the status of these installations to the governor and General Assembly by June 30, 2012. The final report, due by June 30, 2013, will include results of the Virginia demonstration projects, results of the use of quiet pavement materials in other states and any safety, cost or performance issues from the demonstration projects.