It’s always been a matter of price. Owners of mid-sized concrete pavements such as parking lots and medium-duty streets have opted for asphalt despite proof that, in the long run, concrete is more economical.

But in recent years, the initial cost benefit of asphalt has been disappearing. In 2011 the PCA first reported this new pricing reality. The association’s chief economist suggested that as oil prices rise and refineries adopt new technologies, owners would experience a direct impact on the costs to build and maintain asphalt pavements.

Also in 2011, PCA reported that during 2010-11, concrete’s initial cost advantage over asphalt increased to $78,500 in 2010 and $192,700 in 2011 per one-mile “standard” two-lane roadway. Using Wisconsin DOT software, PCA estimates that by 2015 concrete paved roads will enjoy a $266,185 initial bid cost for the same road — roughly a 30% savings, which will grow to 44% by 2025. This suggests that more concrete pavement is in the industry’s future.

But there’s a missing ingredient in the potential gain in market share. Will contractors pave with concrete?

While the difference in material costs is diminishing, contractors have other operational cost considerations when filling out bids, such as ownership costs of equipment and jobsite experience. So on projects that include both material options, contractors routinely opt for the paving method they know best — asphalt.

Roller-compacted concrete (RCC) offers paving contractors an economical and operation-friendly alternative to meeting owners’ demands for affordable pavements. And they are starting to be convinced.

Creating a level of comfort

Despite heavy promotion for many years, producers and contractors are relatively unfamiliar with RCC. And those that have RCC construction experience have little paving history. To fill in this learning gap, The Concrete Producer and Concrete Construction magazines presented RCC Live! at the 2013 World of Concrete. Co-sponsored by the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) and PCA, the five-day activity offered a unique opportunity to learn about RCC paving.

For years, local promotion groups have hosted RCC demonstrations. These demonstrations often include placing a test strip. Wayne Adaska, PCA’s director of pavements, has participated in several of these events around the country. Adaska believes the best way to start an RCC project is with a test strip. “Test strips provide the producer, contractor, and owner’s representative an opportunity to witness the paving process, with an opportunity to make adjustments that will meet the project expectations,” says Adaska.

Using Adaka’s theme, RCC Live! 2013 focused on showing contractors the ins and outs of placing test strips. The event began with a Monday afternoon seminar produced by World of Concrete’s Educational Department. “Plan and Execute Test Pad Placement for Roller Compacted Concrete” was co-presented by Adaska and Christopher Tull, owner of CRT Concrete Consulting Inc., in Fischers, Ind. The seminar provided a practical guide on how to plan, design, and execute an RCC test strip. The engineers also explored RCC mix designs and provided examples of successful RCC projects using test strips.

Armed with a textbook, classroom discussions, and good peer-to-peer discussions, attendees were ready to witness some live action.

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