What Goes Into Making a Road?

June 28, 2022

According to AsphaltPavement.org, “Of the 2.6 million miles of paved roads in the U.S., over 94% are surfaced with asphalt.” The reality is, that most of us drive on asphalt-paved surfaces, in some form, every day of our lives. They’ve changed the way we live and work in the modern world. But what’s required to build them, and will knowing that give us some form of appreciation for the role that they play in our lives? Presuming all the planning and proper permitting has been done, this is what you can expect in making a road.

Clearing the Way

Even in the most barren environments, the pathway required for a road must be carved out in preparation. That means vegetation and boulders need to be removed with excavation equipment, and the prep work required for erosion control (barriers, ditches, etc.), must be installed.

A Mounting Challenge

In road construction, the term used to describe the process of building up the base of the future road with machinery is called “mounting.” Diggers, excavators, and dozers are used to mount dirt in an elevated form so that the base of the road begins to take shape. At this stage, the road construction crew would also begin installing concrete culverts and drainage to help manage future flooding hazards by leading water away from the road surface. This is also when certain utilities are addressed for preparation (electrical and sewage).

Making the Grade

Once the road is prepped and mounted, a contractor like HK Contractors would use the plans drawn by structural engineers to begin the more detailed surface-leveling process. Aided by manual labor and precision grader machinery, the surface is stabilized with additives like limestone and concrete. All the while, the compaction of the roadwork is monitored and maintained with various compaction equipment.

Laying Aggregates

As a final stage before the asphalt is applied, the road is topped with a layer of aggregates, which is usually a crushed stone or gravel product. An even layer, with proper compaction, is typically “fine-graded,” while also giving attention to curb and gutter installation, presuming that the road is being installed under circumstances requiring them, like in an urban environment.

Asphalt Surfacing

As a final stage, the asphalt is applied. A mixture of petroleum byproduct, an aggregate base, and a binder called bitumen, the asphalt pavement is typically mixed at a plant and then transported to the job site. As the asphalt mix is laid out by specialized dispensing equipment, it’s compacted and then allowed time to settle. Depending on the expected traffic volume, up to four or more layers can be applied as a base for the road, with this process repeating as often as is necessary. After the asphalt pavement is applied, final touches are made with signage and road markings, making it ready for use.

Although the process that we’ve described sounds concise and short-lived, a major road job could take years to complete. This entire installation takes extreme levels of planning, approvals, and execution, even with the expertise of a company like HK Contractors. We’ve spent years honing our expertise in road jobs of all sizes, making us one of the premier contractors in our region. If you’re anticipating roadwork in your future, give us a call and we’ll be glad to put your project in the best position possible!