Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recycled tires: Where the rubber is the road

Click  to Enlarge - A rubber mix being compacted in <span class=

These days, the chances are your car's not only driving on rubber tires but over them as well.

Some 18 million vehicle tires are now being recycled in American each year for use as A-R (Asphalt Rubber) in road paving applications.

Proponents of using old automobile tires to make A-R claim that the practice is better than landfilling, and cleaner than burning the tires as a fuel. Roads resurfaced with A-R also are noticeably quieter to drive over.

In its February issue, American Recycler contains an interesting report on rubberized roads which cites the New Jersey Department of Transportation's (NJDOT) experiences with the material.

“A few years ago, we did a project that was a 7-mile section on Interstate 95 near our Ewing offices. We received dozens calls from drivers asking what is that stuff? It’s great, the noise is less. People driving on it can tell the difference over regular asphalt and they say, ‘Wow! What a big difference.’ It’s very unusual for us to get that kind of positive public reaction,” said Eileen Sheehy, manager of New Jersey’s DOT Bureau of Materials.

“With rubberized asphalt, we were getting about a three decibel reduction in noise over conventional asphalt, but over concrete you may get up to a ten decibel reduction. And, that’s really significant,” said Sheehy.

According to NJDOT, tires on concrete pavement generate between 100 and 110 decibels of sound, depending on the age and surface texture. On conventional asphalt the noise is in the high 90s to low 100s. Rubberized open-graded friction courses are in the 95 to 97 decibel range.

“What we are really trying to do is cut the noise at the source,” said Sheehy.

The article notes that New Jersey has completed most of the sound walls and barriers mandated by federal requirements to mitigate noise pollution. Sound walls and other types of barriers are expensive, costing between $200 to $400 dollars per linear foot. In many urban areas there is not enough space to build them.

“Now we are dealing with what we consider nuisance noise – noise not high enough for mandated sound barriers, but nevertheless bothersome to residents. That’s why we put rubberized asphalt on Route 280, because of noise complaints. It’s also useful in areas where it’s very hilly, because we can’t always build sound barriers tall enough,” Sheehy said.

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