Australia, Roadworks, Transport News

Aussie roads set to improve following Coober Pedy trial?

A trial of polymer modified binders (PMBs) in regional South Australia is showing the potential to improve Australia’s road network

The results of an ongoing Austroads study in the regional South Australian town of Coober Pedy has the potential to change the quality of future Australian roads.

A study into the relative performance of different grades of spray seal binders on the roads around the town was established in 2011. The 11-year inspection results have just been released.

The data from the recent inspection revealed that although there are levels of oxidisation and hardening in the binders, they are demonstrating a superior resistance to aging than comparable, unmodified bitumen.

Australian Roads Research Board (AARB) CEO Michael Caltabiano says these long-term studies ensure the quality of Australian roads is given the greatest opportunity to improve alongside progressing technology over time.

“These sorts of projects – long-term pavement performance projects – are vital for our future,” Caltabiano says.

“We must be doing these regularly to bring the science and engineering into the next generation’s standards. As we develop new products with crumb rubber, glass, plastics, we need these long-term pavement performance projects to articulate how they perform in real-world environments.”

Coober Pedy sits on the Stuart Highway almost 1000km north of Adelaide and 700km south of Alice Springs, but its regional positioning on one of Australia’s major cross-country thoroughfares made it the perfect place for the undertaking of this trial.

Summers in Coober Pedy are brutally hot, and those high temperatures coupled with extensive use of heavy vehicles running through the town made it the perfect destination for this ongoing, long-term trial.

“We’re here in Coober Pedy because it gave us the opportunity to trial our polymer modified binders in a hot climate, but it also gave us the opportunity to test them in a low traffic environment with very high heavy commercial vehicle counts,” Austroads Project Manager John Esnough says.

“The project findings to date have shown us the progressions of the aging of the binders.

“We haven’t got to the end life of the binders yet, so we’re getting an understanding of how these binders age. Once that happens we’ll be able to revise and update our specification suite.”

That revision, according to ARRB Safer Smarter Infrastructure Senior Technology Leader Steve Patrick, has already begun.

“We’ve already streamlined our specifications a little bit based on the initial findings we have,” Patrick says.

“The data we have collected on the aging of the binders is quite critical in understanding how the binders age and the ongoing durability for making a more efficient road system for Australia.”

The results of the 11-year report can be viewed here.

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