Better Roads

April 2014

Better Roads Digital Magazine

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Better Roads April 2014 5 which set off a fi restorm of controversy that continues to this day, as there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary. If when or where to seal or not to seal is the question, the concrete pavement preservation industry has been working overtime to give road-owning agencies the information they need to make that decision on their own. "Part of our mission is getting a lot of basic information back out into the marketplace," said Scott Eilken, owner of Bridgeview, Illinois-based Quality Saw & Seal Inc. and co-chair of the Seal/No Seal Group, an industry task force charged with investigating the effi cacy of concrete expansion joint sealing. Other Seal/No Seal co-chairs are Charlie Grady, director of Crafco, Inc.'s International Group, and John Roberts, executive director of the International Grooving & Grinding Association (IGGA). "All of the manufacturers do a great job of putting infor- mation on their websites, but for whatever reason, we get better results by consolidating impartial information in one location," Eilken tells Better Roads. "We don't want to beat on anyone as to whether or not they should be sealing joints. All we are trying to do is bring good, basic common-sense information back to the marketplace. This includes installa- tion practice to make sure sealants are going in properly." Therefore, the Seal/No Seal Group serves as an information clearinghouse on PCC joint sealing. "We have been making great strides in that effort, and we will continue in the fu- ture," Eilken says. "It's our goal to get a lot of basic informa- tion together and distribute it to the industry." Much of the information the group provides is from re- search efforts undertaken by the group. "[T]he Seal/No Seal Group is working on determining the most effective strategy (i.e. seal or no seal), both in terms of pavement performance and life-cycle cost and the associated design, operational and environmental conditions," its mission statement says. An example of this early work was research by consulting engineers Wiss Janney Elstner, Northbrook, Illinois, which is under fi nal review by Seal/No Seal stakeholders in advance of release. "They took a look and gave us parameters on how to properly install sealants," Eilken says. "We're trying to give the industry simple, easy tools to make sure sealants are go- ing in dry enough and clean enough." The Wisconsin story Joint and sealant studies of PCC pavements must address in the following three issues, according to Shober in The Great Unsealing: • Does joint sealing enhance total pavement performance? • If so, is it cost-effective? • And if it's cost-effective, what sealant system should be used? "[WisDOT] has been studying the effect of PCC joint/crack sealing on total pavement performance for 50 years," Shober wrote in 2002. "By 1967 there was substantial documenta- tion that fi lling and refi lling of contraction joints had no benefi cial effect on pavement performance. By 1984, it was concluded that pavements with unsealed joints had better overall performance (distress, ride, materials integrity) than pavements with sealed joints. In 1990, WisDOT passed a policy eliminating all PCC joint sealing (in new construction and maintenance)." At that time, the "no-seal" policy saved Wisconsin $6 mil- lion annually with no loss in pavement performance and with increased customer safety and convenience, Shober says. "The entire PCC sealing issue is beginning to be addressed at the national level, assuring no false assumptions, and with the customer's needs in view." Shober concluded that PCC pavement contraction joints should be left unsealed and sawed as narrowly as possible and that future highway research must focus and concentrate on user needs. "This means the primary evaluation criteria for joint and sealant studies must be total pavement perfor- mance," Shober says. That Wisconsin doesn't seal its PCC joints makes it an out- lier from conventional practice. "Today, 96 percent of the state agencies building and maintaining concrete roadways, and all agencies building and maintaining concrete airport pave- ments, require joint sealing for new pavements," estimates the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA). Debate has not ebbed However, the controversy has been so keen, and the opportu- nity to cut costs by omitting sealants so tempting to agencies, that the question of sealing versus not sealing has not gone away. "When the industry began reconsidering sealing concrete joints – some of which was an uninformed reaction or done with no information – we realized it was time to get infor- mation out in the fi eld that once and for all would answer the question of whether or not there is value to the sealing of joints in our concrete pavements," Eilken says. This led to the founding of the Seal/No Seal Group fi ve years ago.

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