UMD researchers study taconite pothole patching

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The bane of so many Northland drivers might be better solved with a famous Northland export: taconite.

A study by the University of Minnesota Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute this year looked at new ways of using taconite byproducts to patch pavement and fill in potholes.

"The two repair alternatives evaluated during this project merit further development and consideration, as the field performance of both suggests they have long-term potential for more widespread use," according to a summary of the report.

The study continues years of research into using mine tailings to fill in the region's roadways.

One of the taconite-based options studied was patented by the NRRI and uses no petroleum or Portland cement. Branded as Rapid Patch, the compound can be activated by water and sets quickly.

The second mixture studied is activated by a truck-mounted, high-power microwave, making it more effective for wintertime patching.

Still, without more modification to the process and formulas, it's not a perfect replacement for traditional pothole patching.

"The ideal repair would be a repair that lasts at least a year, can be performed in all seasons, and can be installed easily and relatively quickly — all while keeping traffic delays to a minimum," reads the conclusion to the study. "At this point in time, no single repair method achieves this ideal. However, the two alternatives studied during this project represent potentially important steps in that direction, and at a minimum, they represent additions to the 'tool-kit' of maintenance and repair options that can be applied to pothole and other pavement failures and distresses."