World of Asphalt Conference Had Rough Patches

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The conference itself, held in Indianapolis, achieved its goals. But attendees noticed something before they got to the convention center: Lots of potholes.

Every two years the asphalt industry gathers for the “World of Asphalt Show & Conference,” a confab of more than 450 of the paving industry’s leading manufacturers and service providers. The convention is always held in a North American city, providing a chance for people in the paving industry to dedicate a few days of the industry’s off-season to education and commerce.

The 2019 show was in Indianapolis in mid-February, a mere two weeks following the outbreak of deep freeze temperatures in the Midwest region. The lowest temperature in Indy on January 31 was -11ºF, which was not as bad as Chicago (-23ºF), Minneapolis (-28ºF), Fargo (-33ºF) or Detroit (-13ºF), but bad enough. Freeze-thaw cycles are perhaps the unkindest conditions for cracked pavement, resulting in potholes, but very low temperatures don’t help much.

So when a reporter from WISH-TV in Indianapolis visited the asphalt gathering, he naturally had potholes on his mind. “The roads leading to our convention center are rough,” said Richard Essex, the reporter. “The irony of this event being held in Indianapolis in the peak of pothole season wasn’t lost on anyone.”

Among the show attendees were purveyors of specialty asphalt products, including Tom Francione, a Floridian who works for Miami-based EZ Street Asphalt. Somewhat taken aback by the conditions of the roads between the airport and the downtown convention center, he noted it wasn’t just an Indy problem. “One of my customers drove up from Louisville today and he says he’s never seen it this bad,” he said.

EZ Street produces a polymer-modified high-performance asphalt guaranteed to permanently repair potholes, utility cuts, overlays and edge irregularities in asphalt or concrete. The industry show happens to be scheduled when most asphalt plants are closed because air temperatures should be above 50ºF for the bituminous mix (which is between 220ºF and 290ºF) to set properly. But EZ Street is a cold asphalt product that can be used in cold and wet conditions – precisely when potholes are most numerous.

Chris Botner of Unique Paving Materials, another asphalt maker that specializes in pothole repair, echoed Francione’s comments. “They’re in pretty bad shape,” he said.

Three days of educational sessions focused on asphalt plant performance, pavement techniques, pavement preservation (i.e., preventing potholes), and tools for achieving environmental, health, safety, and sustainability goals.

The road to Indianapolis might be rough, but with a centuries-old industry still working at improving products and methods, things might smooth out eventually. The 2021 conference will be held in Atlanta.