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Paper No. 98-0968


Georgia Department of Transportations

Experience with Microsurfacing
Microsurface mix, or microsurfacing, can be used for sealing and providing a friction surface for cracked and deteriorated surface mixes. This
mix, essentially consisting of 9.5-mm (0.37-in.) screenings bonded by a
polymer-modified asphalt emulsion, is economical and can be placed
very swiftly. Microsurfacing is also aesthetically pleasing because of its
resemblance to hot-mix asphalt. In 19901991, the Georgia Department
of Transportation (GDOT) successfully used microsurfacing in a test
section on I-75 in Henry County, which had high traffic volumes and
a heavy truck concentration. Two varieties of the mix were used, and
both showed little deterioration after 2 years. In 1996, GDOT opted to
use microsurfacing for a 9.2-km (5.7-mi) section of I-285 in Atlanta
between Conley Road and Old National Highway. This 92 lane-km
(57-lane-mi) project was initiated to address the raveling and cracking
in the section and improve its appearance before the 1996 summer
Olympics. The I-285 project began in late May 1996 and was completed
in 1 month. The microsurfacing used on I-285 has performed quite well
since the project was completed. No additional problems with raveling
or load cracking have been encountered. The mix has provided excellent smoothness and good friction, with a minimal increase in pavement
noise levels. Microsurfacing may be suitable for use on cracked pavements in lieu of more conventional rehabilitation methods such as crack
sealing, leveling, and double surface treatments.

Microsurface mix, or microsurfacing, can be used to seal and provide friction for cracked and deteriorated surface mixes. This mix,
which essentially consists of 9.5-mm (0.37-in.) screenings bonded
by a polymer-modified asphalt emulsion, is economical and can be
placed very swiftly. Microsurfacing is also aesthetically pleasing
because of its resemblance to hot-mix asphalt.
In 19901991, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)
conducted an evaluation of microsurface mixes in a test section on
I-75 in Henry County. Two different microsurface mixes were used,
containing different latex modifiers and sources of 9.5-mm (0.37-in.)
screenings. Both mixes showed little deterioration after 2 years.
In early 1996, GDOT observed significant pavement distress on
I-285 in Atlanta between Conley Road and Old National Highway
(milepost 56.00 to 61.68). Raveling began to appear in wheel paths
in the corridor, and cracks began to appear in various areas. To
address the raveling and cracking in the corridor and improve its
appearance in preparation for the 1996 summer Olympics, GDOT
decided to use microsurfacing on this 9.2-km/92 lane-km (5.7-mi/
57-lane-mi) section. Slurry Pavers of Glen Allen, Virginia, was
awarded the contract for this project.
The project was located on I-285 in Atlanta between Conley Road
(milepost 56.00) and Old National Highway (milepost 61.68). The
Georgia Department of Transportation, Office of Materials and Research,
15 Kennedy Drive, Forest Park, GA 30050.

one-way average daily traffic in the area is 55,650 with approximately 12 percent truck traffic. The estimated annual traffic load is
4.2 million equivalent single-axle loads in each direction.
The section consists of three main travel lanes and two collectordistributor lanes in each direction within the project limits. The project work encompassed all the lanes in the section. Project work was
conducted between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, and hours were
unlimited on weekends.
Microsurface mix Type II was selected for use in the I-285 project.
This mix was designed by the GDT-121 design method, which
was adapted from the International Slurry Surfacing Association
modified Marshall mix design method. The materials used in the
mix included 9.5-mm screenings, Ralumac polymer-modified
emulsion, and Type I portland cement. The respective sources of
these materials were Vulcan Materials (Stockbridge, GA), Koch
Materials (Conley, GA), and Blue Circle (Atlanta, GA). The Ralumac emulsion was modified with 3 percent natural latex solids.
The design gradation is presented in Table 1. The emulsion used
in the design had a residual asphalt content of 66.8 percent and a
specific gravity at 25C (77F) of 1.016.
Based on results of this design, a satisfactory mix was obtained
with 12 percent emulsion [7.9 percent asphalt cement (AC)],
1.0 percent mineral filler, and 10.0 percent water. However, as
described in the following section, the residual asphalt content was
changed after application of the scratch course leveling, which
appeared very shiny after a few days of traffic. Because of the high
traffic volumes present in the section, and to prevent possible flushing of the AC, GDOT decided to lower the AC content of the mix to
7.4 percent.
Construction began on May 23, 1996, and concluded on June 24,
1996. A Bergkamp continuous mixer and six nurse trucks were
used for the paving operation. The six nurse trucks included four
tandem trucks and two flow-boy trucks. Tack was applied at approximately 0.45 L/m2 (0.10 gal/yd2) and consisted of one part
of emulsion mixed with three parts of water. Scratch course leveling was placed in heavily raveled areas followed by surfacing.
Where heavy raveling was not present, surfacing alone was placed.
A total of 87 983 m2 (105,228 yd2) of leveling was placed, with a
total of 359 558 m2 (430,031 yd2) of surfacing, for a grand total of
447 541 m2 (535,259 yd2) of microsurfacing. The 9.5-mm screenings were transported from the Vulcan facility at Stockbridge to a
stockpile located near the project site.

Watson and Jared


Paper No. 98-0968

Design Gradation of Microsurfacing

A few problems were encountered during construction:

1. Some oversized stone was inadvertently imported from the
quarry, apparently overrode the screen on the scalper unit at the
stockpile, and was incorporated into the mix. A piece of belting was
attached to the screen deck, which diverted oversized stone from the
2. A burlap drag replaced the final rubber strike off or squeegee
unit on the spreader box to improve mix appearance and remove
slight lateral ripples caused by the squeegee. The burlap was later
removed because it pulled large stones to the top of the mix, producing a higher noise level as vehicles traversed the surface. Some
of the large stones pulled to the surface were subsequently dislodged
by traffic and whisked off the roadway.
3. Flushing of the asphalt emulsion occurred in some areas of the
scratch or leveling course. This flushing resulted as the amount of
fine material in the 9.5-mm screenings increased, evidently as a
result of handling. The aggregate gradations obtained at the quarry
are indicated in Table 2, and the mix gradations obtained in the laboratory using the ignition oven and vacuum extraction methods are
indicated in Table 3. The amount of material passing both the
0.3-mm (No. 50) and 0.075-mm (No. 200) sieves is slightly less in
the quarry samples than in the lab samples. The lab samples indicated that the percent aggregate passing the 0.3-mm (No. 50) sieve
had changed from 28 to 29 percent, and the percent passing the
0.075-mm (No. 200) sieve had changed from 10 to 11 percent. To
offset the flushing, which could be induced by heavy truck traffic,
GDOT decided to decrease the amount of emulsion in the mix from



12.0 to 11.2 percent, thereby decreasing the percentage of residual

AC from 7.9 to 7.4 percent.
4. The scratch course leveling quantities were doubled because
of the extensive raveling and cracking of the old open-graded friction course surface. Once the project was under way, GDOT found
that the old surface was much more deteriorated than expected.
5. Upon completion of the surfacing, the contractor was advised
to overlay some areas that appeared to have a shiny texture, which
was produced by excess water that tended to float the AC to the top
of the mix. The aggregate used in the project was found to be very
sensitive to changes in percentage of water. A change of 1 percent
of water in the mix would change the mix consistency, and it
resulted in an increase in flow from 1 to 5 cm (0.04 to 0.2 in.), using
an ASTM C-128 or AASHTO T-84 density cone.
6. Rutting appears to be significantly more pronounced in the
area between milepost 60.0 and 61.5 eastbound, where scratch
course leveling was placed to fill existing ruts before overlaying.
Ruts in this section averaged 19 mm or more before placement of
the microsurfacing. The longitudinal joints were overlapped
approximately 250 to 300 mm (10 to 12 in.) because of the use
of the rubber squeegee for strike off. Use of a steel strike off
would have prevented this overlapping, but because the rutted
section was short, the contractor opted to use the rubber squeegee


AC contents and gradations for the microsurfacing were determined
by extraction analysis to ensure that the values matched those prescribed in the job mix formula (JMF). As indicated in Table 3,
27 extraction analysis samples were taken21 using the ignition
oven and 6 using vacuum extraction. The ignition oven provided

Gradations of Aggregates from Quarry Samples: Microsurfacing


Paper No. 98-0968



Determination of Gradation and AC Content in Microsurfacing by Ignition Oven and Vacuum Extraction

results much more quickly than the vacuum extraction (1.5 versus
24 h). In the vacuum extraction process, tests showed that if samples were dried too long in the convection oven, crystallization
would occur and hinder a complete extraction.
The gradations obtained with the two methods were very similar.
The average AC content determined with the ignition oven closely
matched the JMF AC content before and after June 7, when the JMF
AC content was changed from 7.9 to 7.4 percent. The average AC
content determined with the vacuum extraction did not match the
initial or final AC content of the JMF as closely as did the average
AC content determined with the ignition oven.


Average pavement friction and smoothness values for the section
are presented in Table 4. The friction and smoothness values were

both obtained in July 1996 and April 1997. The values in Table 4
indicate that the average friction value in the section decreased
slightly from 50 to 46, which is an insignificant difference within
the margin of testing variability. The average smoothness improved
from 573 to 564 mm/km (36.1 to 35.6 in./mi.), a 1.6 percent improvement. The smoothness value for this surface is outstanding
and is comparable to the ride quality of conventional hot-mix
asphalt surfaces.


Noise level measurements were conducted in the section in
MayJune 1997 to determine the general noise level of the microsurfacing. Measurements were also taken for other mix types at
various locations in the metropolitan Atlanta area. These other
mix types included both conventional and modified open-graded

Watson and Jared

TABLE 4 Average Friction and

Smoothness Values: Microsurfacing

friction course (D, Modified D), porous European mix (PEM),

portland cement concrete (PCC), and conventional dense-graded
mix (E). A handheld digital sound level meter (Radio Shack
No. 33-2055) was used for the measurements, which were taken
inside a new model Buick station wagon at a speed of 100 km/h
(60 mph).
The measurements were taken from dry pavements, and noise
was minimized inside the vehicle (air conditioner turned off, and so
forth). Measurements taken in and immediately adjacent to the
microsurfacing section were taken in both eastbound and westbound
lanes at the same mileposts in each direction. Milepost 60.1 to 61.1
was topped with microsurfacing, and milepost 61.7 to 62.7 was
topped with conventional D mix.
For the locations tested, microsurfacing showed slightly higher
noise levels than D, Modified D, PEM, E, and, in most cases, PCC.
Variations overall were small enough to be considered negligible.
Results of the tests are presented in Table 5.

Paper No. 98-0968


Microsurfacing is an economical alternative to conventional
dense-graded resurfacing. An estimate for the southeastern region
indicates that microsurface mix currently costs $1.07 to $1.20/m2
($0.90 to $1.00/yd2) at a spread rate of 11 to 16 kg/m 2 (20 to
30 lb/yd2), and it is anticipated to have a service life of approximately 5 to 7 years if applied properly. The actual cost on the
I-285 project was $1.48/m 2 ($1.24/yd2). High traffic volumes in
the corridor necessitated a continuous paving operation and hence
higher placement costs.
Conventional hot-mix surface currently costs $3.83/m2 ($3.00/yd2),
and it has a service life of approximately 10 years before resurfacing
is required. Double surface treatments currently cost $1.26/m2
($1.05/yd2) and have a service life of 5 to 7 years. Although double
surface treatments currently cost less and last as long as microsurfacing, microsurfacing has not generated any broken windshield claims,
whereas double surface treatments often generate such claims. A
GDOT life-cycle cost analysis over a 30-year period at a 3 percent
discount rate shows that rehabilitation of 1.6 lane-km (1 lane-mi)
using microsurfacing would result in a 36 percent savings over the use
of conventional hot-mix asphalt.


The overall appearance of the microsurfacing after 1 year is good.
Weathering has bleached the surface and resulted in an even texture,
even at certain joints where flushing had initially occurred. Very
little raveling has occurred since the microsurfacing was placed.
Only a few isolated areas contain minor ravels 15.24 cm (6 in.) in
diameter or smaller.
Before paving, severe wheel-path cracking was present in lanes
3, 4, and 5 throughout the project. In the most severely cracked area,
some cracks were up to 6 mm (0.25 in.) wide. Currently, only very
faint cracking can be noticed, and it is noticed only in areas where
no scratch course leveling was placed.


Microsurfacing provides a convenient, economical way of addressing pavement distress such as raveling and cracking. The use of
plant mix resurfacing can be delayed for some time if microsurfacing is used. Microsurfacing can be placed quickly and continuously. It is aesthetically superior to slurry seal because of its
resemblance to hot-mix asphalt. Furthermore, it is potentially more
durable than slurry seal. Larger stones are used in microsurfacing,
which enhances its ability to resist rutting, and the modified emulsion binder in microsurfacing enhances its performance by surrounding and holding aggregate particles firmly in place. The
longevity of the microsurfacing depends on whether the underlying
pavement continues to deteriorate and whether any cracks there
remain sealed.

Noise Level Measurements (Decibels): Microsurfacing and Other Mixes



Paper No. 98-0968

Based on the results of the I-285 project, microsurfacing should

provide a minimum of 5 to 7 years of performance on corridors with
moderate traffic volumes and 3 to 4 years of service life on corridors
with high traffic volumes. Microsurfacing also appears to provide
excellent smoothness and good friction levels, with a minimal
increase in pavement noise levels. Considering all these factors,


microsurfacing may be suitable for use on cracked pavements in lieu

of more conventional rehabilitation methods such as crack sealing,
leveling, and double surface treatments.
Publication of this paper sponsored by Committee on Characteristics of
Bituminous-Aggregate Combinations To Meet Surface Requirements.