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The Road More Travelled: The Merits of America’s Concrete Roads

You could argue that roads built Rome. To a large degree, no empire in the ancient world influenced the world we lived in today than the Roman empire. One might even argue the adoption of Christianity as a major religion would not have been possible without the reach of the Roman empire. 

And yet, such a wide reach became a reality largely due to the roads that the Romans built. The expertly engineered roads allowed commerce and services to flow. Hence, those gravels and pebbles and whatever sturdy materials Roman engineers use made the empire last for centuries. And in the long run, it was instrumental in making Rome the most influential in the history of man. 

Rome of course, is ancient history. Aside from its religious influence, the city-state is more of a tourist spot than a world power. But the network of roads it left behind has given us a peek at how roads are indeed central to the growth of civilization. In today’s world, no material may have become attracted engineers and road builders alike than concrete. 

It’s but logical then that we take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of roads paved with concrete. Humans may have left behind the days of world conquest and expansion, but he knows the undeniable importance of well-paved roads. 

Advantages of Concrete Roads

To boot, every material has an advantage and a disadvantage. It’s safe to say in engineering construction that there’s no such thing as a perfect building material. The same goes for concrete. 

Made up of cement, sand, and gravel, concrete road’s greatest advantage is its longevity. You can expect a concrete road to last 20 to 40 years. In contrast, asphalt roads last a lot less, perhaps half the lifetime of one paved with concrete. 

In retrospect, the road network built by the Romans which stretched from Morocco to Egypt is still existing but largely built over by national highways. They were made of cobbled stones. A glorious example is the Appian Way from Rome to Brindisi. 

Another advantage is concrete is recyclable, making it a lot more eco-friendly than you think. To recycle concrete, you need to crush it to gravel. 

If you want a durable road, then concrete is the way to go. It can maintain its form even with high truck volume, unlike asphalt which tends to give in to the pressure. Moreover, concrete’s sturdy surface is not as prone to rutting and dips as asphalt would making it a spot-on material for freeway construction. 

It can still be susceptible to the freeze-thaw cycle that weakens any road. However, concrete is capable of resisting sudden changes in weather better. Asphalt on the other hand tends to give in to the weather more becoming embrittle in the long run. 

The Down Sides of Concrete

As good as concrete is, it also has its downsides. Though it can last longer than most road materials today, repairing it takes longer than most. You can’t just simply fill holes and cracks and have them patched. You need to replace entire slaps.

The good news is there is a slew of concrete repair methods that experts can deploy to get concrete back on track. Experienced professionals with the right tools can look into the wear and tear and inject solutions that allow concrete to last far longer. 

Another factor that can be a point against concrete is its price tag. Simply put, using concrete can cost you more than using asphalt, its biggest competition. On the other side of the fence, such cost could be worth it as concrete lasts far longer than most road types. In a sense, you still come out as getting more bang for your buck with concrete. 

And talking about costs, the concrete installation will mean more dollars from your pocket than installing asphalt on roads. 

If you’re wishing on a smooth ride, concrete could fall short. The problem here is about giving your concrete more grip to prevent vehicle slippage. To do that, you will have to infuse the surface with texture. Added to this, you have slabs settling over time. In the long run, you may have a more bumpy and noisy ride when you go over concrete.

Texture can weaken over time with traffic flow, with vehicle after vehicle beating the concrete. Usually, concrete roads are bristle-broomed to give a rougher finish and more grip. Over time, such a finish smoothens reducing surface roughness. Add rain to the equation and you could have a more slippery road than before. 

While there are disadvantages to concrete roads, their longevity holds the key to why most roads in America are made of concrete. To date, 60% of U.S. roads are concreted. While it may cost more to install and maintain, it still comes out cheaper as it lasts for far longer. In short, concrete’s ability to last far longer is the trump card.

Meta title: The Road More Travelled: Pros and Cons of Cement Concrete Roads
meta desc: Roads in America allowed it to reign supreme. What you’ll find is the majority of these roads are made of concrete. We need to check what makes concrete so special and what makes it disadvantageous. Read on to find out more.