Understanding the Purposes of Pavement Engineering

13 November 2018

Whether a street parking lot is being implemented as part of a citywide renovation plan or an airfield is expanding its light aircraft maintenance stand, these services can’t be properly effected unless there’s a pavement engineering expert on-hand. But what does this engineering professional do? Well, unlike roadways, pavements are expected to handle all kinds of static and dynamic loads. That’s something of a tough design challenge to crack.

What Is A Pavement Network?

Sidewalks in America, the narrow walkways are referred to as pavements in other English-speaking nations. Car parking surfaces are also called pavements, as are the populated areas that support vehicular traffic and the movement of people. Car parks, highway hard shoulders, rest stops, structural supports and plinths, all of these infrastructural assets need the services of a pavement engineering professional. That surface-savvy project manager needs to plan out the best, most cost-effective and sustainable surface loading solution. From the asphalt all the way down to the sub-surface support mechanism, the plan takes form.

The Hallmarks of a Suitable Pavement System

And this is a system, one that includes dozens of interacting elements. The ground requires levelling. Moreover, a soil analysis study will be required. Is the graded land dipping when it should be perfectly level? Are the layers of gravel and asphalt subtly dipping so that any rainwater is channeled towards an awaiting drainage grid, not a shop door? Electrical tappings and trenches are added to the schedule of activities. There are surveillance cameras to install, cranes to set up lampposts, and electrical contractors to install pavement illuminating floodlighting. Even the street painting team has a slot in the plan, for there are car parking lines to assign. Vertically aligned or diagonally slanted, the painted lines used for the parking spots in the pavement system should accommodate vehicular traffic while also leaving plenty of space for foot traffic. Bollards separate the two traffic streams.

On the ground level, soil needs to be compacted more so that it tolerates heavy static loads. If the parked vehicles are aircraft or heavy trucks, hardened concrete is being called forward from a mixer truck. Soft asphalt and gravel do the job when lighter vehicles park. Either way, the pavement engineering project must be sustainable and cost-effective. It can’t crack and fill with potholes after a few years because a consulting engineer overlooked a loading issue, dynamic or static. Other considerations, factors that must be addressed before the pavement network is constructed, include surface traction options, special drainage requirements, the effects of ice and stormwater, and concrete mix preferences.

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