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VDOT Looks for Holes in Porous Friction Course

Tue October 21, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Motorists in Prince William County might soon notice a quieter, drier stretch of road on the Route 234 bypass.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is testing a new road material that absorbs road noise while increasing drainage capacities.

The new material, known as Porous Friction Course (PFC), is a technologically advanced material that allows air and water to seep down from the road surface away from the tires. This minimizes hydroplaning, tire pavement noise and splash and spray. On rainy nights, it can also improve visibility. The Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC), VDOT’s research division, is monitoring the project.

“When it’s raining at night, this material will cut down on night time glare because it channels water off the surface. That’s a big safety feature,” said Kevin McGhee, VTRC senior scientist who is leading the project. “And a smooth roadway could mean savings at the gas pump.”

In late August, a 1.7-mi. (2.7 km) stretch of the Route 234 bypass between Balls Ford Road and Sudley Manor Drive was paved with PFC. It is being monitored by the Research Council who will test the road for noise-level changes over several months. Factors it will study after six months and a year include ride quality, texture, drainability and tire-pavement noise. This section of road was chosen because of its adequate traffic volumes, travel speeds and the favorable existing pavement conditions.

The PFC asphalt is being used in other areas of the country as well, including Florida and Massachusetts. If tests in Virginia prove beneficial, VDOT will consider resurfacing other high-priority roads such as the stretch of Interstate 66 inside the beltway with this material.

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