Roads are a ubiquitous part of life, but they don’t get nearly enough attention. Whether you drive or take the bus, you use a road to get to work. The road construction industry makes up a sizable portion of the United States economy, providing lucrative job opportunities to workers across the country. If you want to show your roads some love, try learning these five quick road building industry facts.
1) 90% of roads and parking lots are made out of asphalt.
Nearly every road in the first world is built out of asphalt. This material was first used for roads in ancient Babylon, and it’s still the primary choice everywhere that the material is available.
Asphalt occurs naturally and can be recycled. In fact, 80% of old asphalt is reused after it’s pulled up off the ground. Recycling asphalt saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and it also helps preserve natural asphalt resources for future generations.
Although the environmentally-friendly aspects of asphalt are important, the magic of this material comes from its sound-reducing properties. Asphalt can actually reduce highway noise by anywhere from 3 to 5 decibels. This might not sound like a huge amount, but it’s enough to turn the incessant roaring of engines into the gentle woosh of traffic that we’ve all come to recognize.
2) The United States spends nearly 100 billion dollars on highway construction every year.
In 2018, the American public sector spent a total of 92.5 billion dollars on highways. Projections say that this amount will grow to 112.4 billion by 2023. This money comes from both federal and state budgets; if you’ve ever wondered where your gas taxes go, you now have a concrete answer.
These impressive numbers only cover highway construction and don’t account for the value of local and private roadbuilding projects. When you consider the billions of dollars that are spent annually to keep the roads maintained, it’s hard to deny that the highway construction industry is a vital part of the United States economy.
3) With over 679,000 miles of pavement, Texas is officially the state with the most roads.
If you count by miles of asphalt, Texas is clearly the state with the longest roads for you to drive. California takes second place with over 394,000 miles. After that are Illinois, Kansas, and Minnesota.
The Federal Highway Administration regularly updates their data to reflect new road and highway construction projects. Although Texas probably won’t be losing first place anytime soon, you can expect every state’s lane miles to go up as more projects are completed across the country.
4) Road construction has three essential steps: earthwork, paving, and asphalt overlay.
Building a road isn’t as simple as laying down asphalt over an area. There are actually three unique steps that need to be completed to create the stable roads that we drive on every day.
The first step in creating a road is known as earthwork. During this process, the construction company reshapes the ground in an area to create a flat and drivable surface. This typically involves smoothing hills, filling in shallow areas, and adding stable foundations to places that might collapse under the weight of a vehicle.
The next step is to pave the area over with stable and shock-resistant materials. Different cities use different materials to pave their roads, but concrete slabs are incredibly popular across the country.
The pouring of asphalt is actually the last step needed to create a road. Asphalt provides a stable, temperature-resistant surface that protects the underlying foundation from the traffic of thousands of cars.
5) The longest road in the United States goes from Massachusetts to Oregon.
America’s longest road is U.S. 20. This massive highway stretches from Boston on the East coast to Newport on the West. After leaving New England, U.S. 20 dips down through Midwestern states like Indiana, Nebraska, and Idaho.
In total, the U.S. 20 road is 3,365 miles long. That’s 565 miles longer than the width of the United States; the extra length comes from the fact that no road actually runs in a straight line.