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Long Island

Brookhaven warms to use of cooler asphalt for road paving

Contractors add striping to a newly paved stretch

Contractors add striping to a newly paved stretch of Comsewogue Rd. in East Setauket on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Brookhaven, which just finished a road project using a cooler way of paving that can be done later in the fall and at night when temperatures drop, said it expects to make the asphalt mix the town's new standard.

Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro said he believes his town is the first on Long Island to use the warm mix material, which lacks the noxious odor of traditional hot mix.

Industry statistics show that the use of warm mix has grown rapidly since it was first introduced in the United States about a decade ago. But the practice still has not caught on in some areas of the country.

"It's a very conservative industry. People are very reluctant to be the first ones to do anything," Losquadro said Friday on Hulse Road in Setauket while watching crews paint lane dividers on 6 lane miles that had just been repaved with warm-mix asphalt. "We'll be monitoring this over the winter and I anticipate this being my new standard."

Brookhaven has 3,350 lane miles of roadway, the third-largest paving district in New York, behind only the state and New York City transportation departments.

About 113.8 million tons of warm mix were produced nationally last year, up 7 percent from the 106.4 million tons used in 2013, the National Asphalt Pavement Association said last week in its annual report.

"In 15 states, more than half of all asphalt pavement mixtures were produced as warm-mix asphalt, and in six of them, more than 75 percent was produced as warm mix," the group's president, Mike Alcott, said in the new report.

The warm-mix difference

"We are already seeing construction and performance benefits, as well as energy savings, with warm-mix asphalt," Alcott said. There's also an environmental benefit as less fossil fuel is needed to heat it, industry and government officials say.

Traditional hot-mix asphalt is heated to between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but warm mix has additives that allow it to be mixed to anywhere from 30 to 120 degrees lower. (Water boils at 212 degrees.)

Warm mix "has equal or better performance" compared with hot mix, according to the Federal Highway Administration, but the agency said the federal government does not have the authority to mandate its use by states or localities.

Localities, in turn, have taken that to mean that they cannot mandate warm mix in projects that use federal funds, and allow the contractor to make the decision.

The Hulse Road project was relatively small by Brookhaven standards -- just $300,000 in an annual paving budget of $15 million, Losquadro said. Lower fuel prices save on production, but additives increase the cost.

The warm mix for Hulse Road cost Brookhaven about 88 cents more per ton than hot mix, adding about $4,400 total cost for the 5,000 tons, Losquadro said. "The cost was pretty inconsequential in terms of the scope of things."

Positive trial results

Louis Vecchia, manager of Asphalt Supply of Long Island, which won the paving contract, said his workers were very pleased with the product.

"The smell was completely gone. It was easy to work with," said Vecchia, whose company is in East Setauket. "The roller operators only had to roll it once. You have to continuously roll with hot mix."

Losquadro said the town usually begins paving in mid-April. "We're always trying to beat the clock at the end of the season as the weather cools down," Losquadro said. "Having seen the product in action in these cooler temperatures, I feel this could become our standard paving material."

"The density and compaction of the material was fantastic. We saw a wonderful result, a very smooth finish, no roller marks," he said, adding it's been the industry standard in Europe for a decade.

The New York State Department of Transportation did two warm mix trials on Long Island several years ago and its contractors used about 9,000 tons of warm mix this year on three repaving jobs: NY Route 24/Hempstead Turnpike, NY Route 25A, and NY Route 106 in Nassau County, a spokeswoman said.

Suffolk County did a trial warm mix project on Great East Neck Road in 2013 and is evaluating the results, a county spokeswoman said. Nassau County did not return calls for comment last week.

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