The Benefits of Better Pavement Design

September 14, 2022


Today’s world is hyperaware of its environment and the need to protect it. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are one of the primary sources of air pollution in the United States, and everything from electric vehicles to carpooling has been touted as part of the solution. Believe it or not, better pavement design can also play a role in reducing fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions.


Understanding the Pavement-Vehicle Interaction (PVI)

According to MIT, pavement-vehicle interaction, or PVI, is the interaction between a vehicle’s tires and the surface it drives on, and it can also be referred to as rolling resistance. This interaction is largely responsible for increased fuel consumption, which not only causes motorists to spend more money to travel but also greatly increases greenhouse gas emissions that are byproducts of the process of combusting fuel. This leads to poor air quality and smog, and it has a significant impact on the overall health of the planet too.


How Big Is the Impact?

MIT worked alongside many states to measure excess fuel consumption (EFC) that was specifically caused by PVI across those states’ roadways and some of the findings were shocking.

  • California – The partnership between MIT and the California Department of Transportation uncovered more than 1 billion gallons of EFC occurred over a five-year period because of the interactions between the vehicles and the pavement.
  • Virginia – When MIT analyzed the interstate highway system in Virginia, it found that, over the course of seven years, PVI caused more than a million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in its state alone.

In both cases, MIT researchers were able to show that by identifying and repairing key sections of roadways, these states could drastically decrease EFC, which has a negative impact on travelers’ wallets and the state and local economies.


How Are These Issues Being Addressed?

Years of research and experiment have led MIT to the conclusion that there are two primary ways to reduce EFC being caused specifically by PVI: stiffer pavements that are maintained to be smoother pavements. The stiffer the pavement, the more it supports the vehicle, which reduces the overall interaction between the vehicle and the pavement. Similarly, smoother pavements create less friction, and increased friction on the driving surface leads to increased fuel consumption, particularly when it comes to maintaining highway speeds. Furthermore, smoother pavement also leads to decreased road noise, which can significantly impact noise pollution for those living and working near major roadways.

Better pavement not only provides a better, safer experience for drivers. It also reduces fuel consumption significantly. Though these fuel savings may not be immediately evident at the driver’s level, reducing PVI can take millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the course of several years – and that’s a huge win for the planet and the people. As a major construction company, HK Contractors stands at the forefront of these efforts. As improvements are needed in the Idaho Falls region, we get the privilege of bettering the pavement infrastructure with our people and expertise. Contact us today to find out how!