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Better Roads and Bridges

The news has it that the country’s roads and bridges are in need of repair. Can they be built so they last longer? How is it that the ancient Romans could build a bridge in Trier Germany, as an example, that is still in use today? Roadbuilders and state highway people are silent on this possibility and do nothing to inform road users and taxpayers of options. Are we taken as being shortsighted so as to refuse paying more to get a lot more? Some unexpert suggestions for longer lasting roads and bridges so we don’t need to soon pay again and again for reconstruction are as follows:

  1. Richer concrete mix.
  2. Thicker concrete roads.
  3. Stainless steel or epoxy coated rebar.
  4. Metallic plating or other durable coating on bridge steel to stop rusting due to road salt.
  5. Harmless de-icing chemical other than salt on bridges for northern areas.
  6. Raise roadbeds with sufficient gravel or sand to get above frost heave for northern areas.
  7. Rebar to connect concrete road sections to minimize unevenness from frost heave and heavy vehicles.
  8. Diamond cutter skimmer machine to shave off the highest of bumps on deteriorating roads.

Please post your related suggestions.

It is a report put out by the professional organization representing the folks who gain employment with large amounts of road projects. Be suspicious.

That said;

  1. Reduce the axle loading allowed on roadways and make it common across all states.
  2. Require working shock absorbers on all axles of all medium duty and higher trucks and trailers, inspect at least yearly.
  3. Increase the concrete thickness on all new projects (which I think is already in specs for highways)

As to the changes already suggested;

  1. What do you mean by “richer concrete”
  2. How do you electroplate an assembly you can’t submerge?
  3. Any suggestions of what we might use?
  4. All northern roads, or any roads are above the “front heave”. Frost heave is “the uplift of water-saturated soil or other surface deposits due to expansion on freezing” so by definition the road is above it, that why the road lifts.
  5. We already do this, standard highway build techniques.
  6. We already do this to level uneven surfaces. Usually before capping with asphalt.
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I don’t need any news agency to tell me the roads are in terrible shape

I can verify this myself, every day

I suggest you do some homework, and read up on how they construct roads in western europe. It’s NOTHING like what is done here. Night and day difference. And I know it for a fact, because I lived there. I’m not bragging, merely pointing out a fact

So, clearly the roads in western europe are built to a FAR higher standard. And after that, there’s more effort involved in maintaining them and/or repaving/replacement, as needed. Again, totally unlike here.

But IMO it’s wishful thinking to dream of better roads in the US. That would require fundamental changes, with more money being spent on infrastructure . . . regularly, not just once in a blue moon . . . and less money being spent on other things. And that would be a tough battle to win. Some may call my comments pessimistic, but I rather view them as realistic.


Yes, but the folks in western Europe mostly accept the reality that there is actually a price tag attached to civil engineering projects. Instead, our nation seems to teem with people who view every attempt to upgrade the infrastructure as an attempt at armed robbery.

The reality of the situation is that Americans face a far lower tax structure than those who live in many other developed countries, but when elected US officials try to convince them that they have the world’s highest tax burden, they believe those lies.


I agree 100% with your comments, and for once I can’t add anything to it :thumbsup:

The German Autobahns that so impressed General Eisenhower during WW II were built in the 30s and have about 60 cm thick ( 2 ft) concrete. Built on a very solid base, these highways were built to last.

Agree that epoxy coated rebar is a must, and is now specified.

The Brooklyn Bridge is over 100 years old and still doing OK. The Golden gate bridge is 79 years old and still in great shape.

The rush to build the Interstate System specified then accepted techniques, which now are known to be less than perfect. St 4 cents a gallon tax, it financed nearly the whole system. Eisenhower deserves credit for the effort, but future specs should be tighter. We know a lot more than we did in 1952.

Reinforced concrete construction in a cold climate requires very special care.

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Bottom line, we need a higher gasoline tax to pay for the needed road repairs. As is common in Europe.

I agree, the bridges could be better made … too many were made to last only 20 years, which is totally silly. And, there is too much deferred maintenance. I’ve seen several new bridge projects, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, that could have been deferred if the older bridges had been properly maintained.

When I drove on the Autobahn connecting Czechoslovakia with Germany (obviously built after the seizure of the Sudetenland), I was impressed with the condition of those highways. Yes, the merging lanes were absolutely pathetic–even by the standards of the 1930s and the mostly low-powered cars of that era-- but the pavement seemed to be pristine, even after ~50 years of traffic.

What impressed me in a negative sense was the placement of highway rest stops that were essentially beer gardens with the addition of some…not very clean…lavatories. Yes, Pilsner Urquell is wonderful, but is it a really good idea to serve it with essentially no restrictions to the folks who are driving on those old Autobahns?

Prestressed concrete roadbed for bridges is created using steel wire strand that is epoxy coated. This has been done for at least 40 years. We could do more, but then our roads would cost a lot more. Just as with our cars that can be built to last for many decades, but who could afford to buy them?

Re, the beer gardens on the Autobahn, it has been quite a few years since I have been there, but I recall a state package store between the lanes of the interstate somewhere in new hampshire.

With the many miles of more roads in the United States vs Western Europe, do you think it’s even possible that we could build and maintain roads the way they do? I personally doubt it unless we heavily increase taxes and eliminate the massive amount of inefficiency in our government (never happen…)


I didn’t say it’s even possible

That’s why I used the term “wishful thinking” in my earlier comment :thinking:

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Canadians build roads that hold up better than ours because they have higher standards, that costs more and they have higher taxes to pay for them. It is all a matter of choices. Much of our problem in Western NY is the insane amount of de-icer used on our roads due to a bare road policy. I didn’t say salt because it is a mixture of salt and even more corrosive chemicals, it even eats the concrete. The proposed restrictions on trucks are totally unworkable and are not going to happen. Ever since deregulation of freight rates in 1978, profits have been slim to nonexistent.

Mandating huge , and I do mean huge investments in trucking fleet and more drivers will just result in more trucks being parked. There is a huge shortage fo truck drivers now. There are a lot of drivers with class A licenses that not longer drive for a living because the real pay and benefits have been shrinking since the 70s and the working conditions and regulations have just become worse.

Thank you Mr. Mustangman for your and to others for their replies. I have comments in reply to yours as follows:

  1. What do you mean by “richer concrete”

When I worked at a summertime construction job we used five 94 lb. sacks of Portland cement per cubic yard for cheap jobs and six 94 lb. sacks of portland cement per cubic yard for good quality jobs as an option for the owner of the project. Who knows what highway and bridge builders are using?

  1. How do you electroplate an assembly you can’t submerge?

You can submerge anything that you want.

  1. Any suggestions of what we might use?

I am not a chemical engineer; can’t answer that. The question remains unanswered.

  1. All northern roads, or any roads are above the “frost heave”. Frost heave is “the uplift of water-saturated soil or other surface deposits due to expansion on freezing” so by definition the road is above it, that why the road lifts.

Many roads here in WI. are at the same level or very little above the surrounding terrain. During Winter it is easy to notice that most roads are rougher in Winter than in Summertime. Spring brings relief from the bumps when the frost heave subsides. Whatever the highway people are doing now regarding drainage does not work well as the roads do not return exactly to what they were before the frost heave.

One exceptional area is the Central Sands region in central Wisconsin where there is only a little clay in the well-drained sand that extends from the surface downward to bedrock. Frost during a very cold winter can extend 4 feet down with no resulting heave in the well-drained deep sand. Roads in other areas may need to be elevated more over the surrounding terrain to get further away from the frost heave.

  1. We already do this (rebar connection of slabs), standard highway build techniques.

That is good to know but we still have bumps. What do you suggest?

  1. We already do this (skimming) to level uneven surfaces. Usually before capping with asphalt.

Why is it not done where needed even if not in preparation for blacktopping? It sounds like an inexpensive improvement. A machine that took off the highest bumps once in a while might be a good thing. Have you ridden a motorcycle and found it necessary to stand on the pegs when you see a good bump arriving very soon?

  1. [quote=“Wha_Who, post:14, topic:101234”]
    Who knows what highway and bridge builders are using?
    [/quote] Well the road builders know, the state engineers that spec’ed the road know and test to make sure the proper product is used and the engineers that wrote the recommended specs know what they defined as the requirement.

  2. Since a great many bridges are now done as segments from pre-stressed concrete, there is little to no exposed steel to be plated. The re-bar in pre-stressed concrete segments is stretched to force the segment always be in compression (concrete LIKES compression, HATES tension) and is then dropped into place. See link:

  3. You can’t define every surface you build a road across. Roads must go where roads must go so road builders take different soil conditions into consideration for every stretch they build. Some are obviously better than others and simply adding fill to the roadbed is not always a fix or even possible.

  4. I would suggest we lower the axle loading on large trucks so the expansion joints don’t get so torn up.

  5. It is done to make smooth roads. But if you skim cut concrete at the expansion joint in the winter when it has heaved, that creates a low spot when summer comes. So when would you like your bumps? Money spent for no result. I have ridden motorcycles for several decades but my current bike soaks up the bumps very well so peg-stands are very limited.

Well, just to show you that a state’s engineers may be in the dark, I present the case of the 50 year old Delaware River bridge that connects the PA Turnpike and the NJ Turnpike. A few months ago, one section of the roadway suddenly sank a few inches and an inspection of the supporting structure revealed a major break in the structural steel.

Further investigation revealed that there were some attachment holes in the steel that had been placed incorrectly, and that had been filled-in with solder or some other non-structural material, and then painted over!

Obviously, the bridge was somewhat overbuilt because those structural flaws didn’t result in failure for about 50 years, but–all the same–the original contractor took major chances with people’s lives and property, and the engineers/inspectors were clearly not as diligent as they should have been. The bridge was closed for over two months in order to shore it up, and–of course–many millions of $$ were spent on the repairs. Additionally, traffic patterns in many towns became absolutely untenable during rush hours, as a result of the non-highway detours that were necessary.

The only good news of the whole story is that fast action prevented any vehicles from falling through the badly-compromised bridge’s roadway.

Wasn’t the engineers fault that an unscrupulous contractor did a better job covering up an error than building the bridge in the first place. Everyone in place knew the proper building requirements, they just didn’t follow them. And bridges are SUPPOSED to be “overbuilt” so they last!


Germany’s got money for their roads. We would have more for ours… They only spend something like 1.2% of their GDP on defense. I guess they expect us to be part of their defense plan. Such a deal!

Timely subject as we approach frost heave season here. Some roads you cannot go over 20 mph with the heaves but the rest of the year, they are smooth as any road. Frost heave season is only about a month out of the year…

Funny, I was reminded of this cartoon-


Locally we elect geniuses like that.