Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Executive Director Message - May 2017 - One Asphalt Specification to Rule Them All…and Put More Oil Back Into the Mix

Hey, a guy can dream, can he not? Oh, that such a proverbial “silver bullet” existed when it comes specifying, producing, and constructing quality asphalt mixes. It would simplify production, reduce waste, and increase proficiency across the board from design to construction and even preservation!

Unfortunately, no such specification to rule them all exists (at least not one that I am aware of!), but I do believe that industry and owners, by working together, have taken a much-needed critical step in the right direction over the course of the last few years. Indeed, after many meetings, lots of discussions, and maybe even a few shed tears (mostly on my part), I firmly believe that UAPA, UDOT, and particularly the Utah Chapter of the APWA have worked very hard to produce a set of 2017 standard asphalt specifications that will meet the needs of Utah. So while our bullet is not quite silver, I do believe that now, more so than ever before, we have developed quality specifications that can and should drive our industry as the “go-to standards” in Utah for the years to come.

If I may, I would like to focus on just the APWA Standards. By simplifying the APWA Specifications through, among other things, targeting air voids, changing calculations for the absorptiveness of virgin aggregate and RAP, and bumping binder grades to account for the use of RAP in your mix according national standards, we now have standard specifications that will meet the needs of every city and county in Utah. By narrowing our specs to five or six go-to mixes based on the application, we can and, by all accounts, we will build better roads, reduce waste, and become more efficient both as industry and owners in what we do. By working together, we can go from the over four hundred iterations of city and county specifications across the state to under ten mixes that will handle most, if not all, applications for cities and counties in the state.

It is that sentiment that drove us last week to hold the fist UAPA Lunch and Learn of 2017. At that meeting, we had over one hundred people in attendance to discuss opportunities and challenges in specifying, producing, and constructing asphalt mixes along the Wasatch Front. I am very grateful to Waylund Ludlow (Geneva Rock Products), James Inglis (Granite Construction), Doug Watson (CMT Engineering), and many others who offered valuable insight and time as we prepared for the May Lunch and Learn presentation. As Waylund, James, and Doug led the discussion, I was impressed with their candor and willingness to share their perspective on what has happened in the Utah market over the course of the last ten to fifteen years. I was also really taken back by the slides Doug shared that illustrated the unbelievably high amount of mixes you could produce across the Wasatch Front based on previous specifications. Simply put, such a continued proliferation of different specifications is not sustainable, nor warranted.

That’s why UAPA’s invitation to take a fresh look at the 2017 APWA Standards for the production of hot mix asphalt (HMA) for cities and counties in Utah is a key priority for our association in 2017. So much so, we have even shared a letter from either the presidents or vice presidents of all of the major companies (or parent companies) that produce asphalt in the state.  Click HERE to view the letter.

My invitation and challenge to you, if you are representative from a city or county (including consulting engineering firms that represent cities and counties!) that builds, designs, bids, preserves, or manages roads, is to take a look at this letter and then give me a call. I am happy to visit with you about this development in specifications, talk to you about where your current specifications may be improved, and, more important than anything else, just be with you to listen to you speak about your roads, understand what you are seeing, and work together to meet the challenges and opportunities you are facing – in a nutshell, that is UAPA’s commitment to industry and that is my commitment to any of you that would like to take me up on this invitation.

We are off to a great start to the construction season. Stay safe. Be aware. And be sure to come home to the ones you love each night.

Best regards,


W. Reed Ryan
Executive Director
The Utah Asphalt Pavement Association