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Long Island

Tech tools can help curb LI's pothole problem, experts say

A car is driven onto the wrong side

A car is driven onto the wrong side of the road as a driver attempts to elude a pothole-ridden section of Piping Rock Road in Upper Brookville Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Technological innovations, ranging from machines that predict the life span of asphalt to mobile apps that let users report roadway craters, can help combat Long Island's pothole problem, experts and officials said.

Bruce Barkevich, vice president of asphalt for the New York Construction Materials Association, a trade group, said some of the most promising innovations are in the field of asphalt "performance-based specs."

Using special machines, engineers in laboratories can test samples of asphalt before using it in a road project and learn how long it will last in different traffic and weather situations.

Such machines are already widely in use, but are becoming more sophisticated and accurate in their predictions, Barkevich said.

Once out of a lab, innovations in paving technology are allowing highway crews to resurface roads more efficiently than ever before. "Self-contained" paving machines can jackhammer roads to break up old pavement, vacuum up the debris, "squirt out" new asphalt, and roll it, Barkevich said.

A paving machine designed by Advanced Paving Technologies of Rockaway, New Jersey, uses radar to create a digital map of a surface.

Using the map, the machine applies slightly more asphalt in areas with depressions, and slightly less in areas with bumps.

Some modern rollers can measure the rate of compaction as they travel behind the machines that lay the asphalt. The operator of the roller can view a color-coded screen that records the number of passes over the asphalt and indicates where more compaction is needed.

"We think this is a great example where the industry can provide information to the paving crew," said Tom Harman, Pavement and Materials Technical Service Team manager for the Federal Highway Administration Resource Center.

While technological innovations are valuable, Barkevich said no amount of "gimmicks" can take the place of proper paving technique and adequate maintenance.

"There's a lot of great proprietary repair products on the market," Barkevich said. "But if you just take standard cold patch or hot mix, put it in right, compact it properly. . . . It will perform as well as you can expect."

Locally, some municipalities are embracing technology to help residents report potholes as they encounter them.

The Town of North Hempstead even has a mobile app.

"A resident can simply take a photo of it and send it directly to our 311 Call Center," Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. "We're committed to repairing it within two business days."

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