As spring gives way to summer, we also have begun another season in Minnesota: road construction. For many drivers, this is the season of frustration and inconvenience.
Which is why the type of road surface and the construction materials used are such important parts of Minnesota’s highway system stewardship, directly correlating to how often drivers have the inconvenience of road construction.
The goal should be to extend the service life of highway roads as long as possible before needing major rehabilitation or replacement. Of course, this would also mean less road construction — and less frustration and inconvenience for motorists.
A solution is using concrete pavement. Most concrete roads last 35 or more years before requiring repair.
Many roads around Duluth are great examples of wise planning and pavement decisions. Much of Interstate 35 has been overlaid with concrete and is expected to last longer in the Duluth area than anywhere else in the state. The new Twin Ports Interchange at I-35, Interstate 535, and Minnesota Highway 53 in Duluth will be paved using concrete, starting this year.
In 2019, construction took place on I-35 from Pine City to the Chisago County line, on both lanes, northbound and southbound. In the past 10 years, over half of the I-35 route from the southern Pine County line to Duluth has received a beneficial overlay of concrete.
Some streets in Duluth’s Chester Park neighborhood are more than 100 years old and still going strong.
Importantly, federally funded studies show that concrete interstate pavements cost 13% to 28% less in the long run than asphalt interstate pavements.
There are also benefits to concrete like sustainability: Concrete is 100% recyclable, produced locally, and reflects more light-reducing urban heat islands. It also is slightly more fuel efficient than other surfaces because it is so smooth and sturdy.
The bottom line: Duluth-area roads surfaced with concrete will be smooth, safe, and low-maintenance for at least 35 more years — and won’t need replacement for more than 60 years.
We can no longer afford to address road-repair needs with short-term solutions. For both drivers and sustainability, concrete roads are the right direction to go.
Matt Zeller of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is executive director of the Concrete Paving Association of Minnesota (concreteisbetter.com).