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University of California Berkeley

Institute of Transportation Studies

Technology Transfer Program

The Technology Transfer Program
is a unit of the Institute of
Transportation Studies, University By Don Raffaelli, PE, California LTAP Field Engineer, Technology Transfer Program
of California Berkeley. Its mission is Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Berkeley
to bridge research and transporta-
tion practice by facilitating and Introduction Foamed Asphalt Discovered
supporting the planning, design, and Defined
construction, operation and mainte- Foamed asphalt base stabilization is a
nance of efficient and effective roadway recycling process in which all Hot liquid asphalt cement (350°F/177C)
state-of-the-art transportation sys- of the pavement and some of the reacts when a small amount of cold
tems. The Technology Transfer underlying material is pulverized and water is injected into it, as discovered
Program provides professional train- treated with a foamed asphalt additive in 1956 by Professor Ladis Csanyi at the
ing, workshops, conferences, tech- to produce an improved, stabilized Engineering Experiment Station at Iowa
nical assistance and resources in base. This status report presents lessons State University at Ames. The foaming
the areas of planning and policy, learned from current usage in California action expands the asphalt, making the
traffic engineering, project develop- of the base stabilization process called asphalt mixable much in the way that
ment, infrastructure design and foamed asphalt, cold foamed asphalt or beating an egg white makes it easier to
maintenance, safety, environmental expanded asphalt, hereafter referred to mix with dry ingredients. Particles stick
issues, and aviation. The as foamed asphalt. together and form a paste which does
Technology Transfer Program is the not harden immediately.
California Local Technical
Assistance Program (LTAP) Center,
providing free services, technical
assistance and resources to
California’s public-sector trans-
portation agencies.

Technology Transfer Program

Institute of Transportation Studies
University of California, Berkeley
1301 S 46th Street, Building 155
Richmond CA 94804
PHONE 510.231.5681
FAX 510.231.9591

Foamed asphalt, according to Muthen,
Lewis and Vos, in “Mix Design
Procedure for Foamed Asphalt,” a paper
presented in South Africa in 1999, is:

“a mixture of pavement construction

aggregates and foamed bitumen. The
foamed bitumen … is produced by a
process in which water is injected into
the hot bitumen resulting in sponta-
neous foaming. The physical properties
of the bitumen are temporarily altered
when the injected water, on contact
with the hot bitumen, is turned into
vapor which is trapped in thousands of
tiny bitumen bubbles. However, the
foam dissipates in less than a minute
and the bitumen resumes its original
properties. In order to produce foamed compacting, grading and finish-rolling. quality product, and is more environ-
asphalt, the bitumen must be mixed Aggregates may include pulverized mentally friendly than traditional demo-
with the aggregates while still in the material from the existing roadway, lition and re-construction because it
foam state.” soils, additional processed or native recycles materials from the existing
aggregates, or additives such as cement roadway. Benefits include:
Muthen, Lewis and Vos further reported or fly ash.
that for decades following its discovery, Foamed asphalt recycling equip- Cost. Binder material and transportation
foamed asphalt was not utilized in ment is usually run in a “train” with costs are reduced because foamed
North America, even though it had one piece of equipment closely follow- asphalt requires less binder and water
been patented for use in North America ing the next. For example, the recycling than other types of cold mixing. Use of
by Mobil Oil. Europe and South Africa or mixing machine can be coupled materials from the existing roadway
were first to adopt the process. Initially, with an asphalt supply tanker and a reduces the need to acquire and trans-
the process called for steam to be water cart. The recycler propels the port “virgin” materials, which are rising
injected into the bitumen, but this tanker in front and pulls the water cart in cost as permits become more diffi-
process was not widely used because it behind. Typically, the foamed asphalt is cult to obtain for new aggregate extrac-
required specialized equipment, name- compacted with a sheepsfoot roller, tion sites (pits and quarries) in
ly boilers, on the construction site. then rough graded, compacted with a California. Unlike asphalt emulsions
Mobile Oil of Australia, having smooth, steel-drum roller, then fine which are processed, the liquid asphalt
acquired the patent, modified the graded, and finally finished by pneu- cement is pure, making it more eco-
process to use cold water instead of matic rubber tire roller. nomical. Costs can be low enough that
steam in 1968; this made foamed Often a roadway can be recycled “small jurisdictions may be able to put
asphalt more economical and, there- and reconstructed at a rate of one to a project together within [their] mainte-
fore, more acceptable. See figure 1 for two lane miles per day, and the finished nance budget, as opposed to new con-
a diagram of the foamed asphalt pavement can be opened to traffic with- struction,” suggests Dick Stuart, General
process as it is used in California today. in a few hours of production. A chip Manager of Western Stabilization
seal or hot mix overlay can be placed (quoted in Better Roads, July 2003).
within two days.
Construction Process Environmental. The re-use of existing
pavement conserves material and
While the foaming action may take less Benefits energy since old paving material is
than 15 seconds, once mixed with not hauled away and discarded.
aggregates the foamed asphalt remains Foamed asphalt boasts low engineering Reduced truck traffic to and from the
workable for long enough to complete and production costs, produces a high job site translates into reduced fuel

consumption and vehicle emission lev- cracking and shallow base failure. dig-out and overlay or gut-out and
els. Energy is also conserved because Foamed asphalt is more flexible and rebuild, foamed asphalt decreases the
only the bitumen needs to be heated. fatigue resistant than cemented materi- amount of time that workers spend in
Air quality is not as severely impacted als, with strength characteristics the work zone. Distance from a hot mix
because no evaporation occurs and approaching those of cemented materi- asphalt (HMA) plant is not a factor,
volatiles are not released, as they als, and it can be used with a wider since all heating and mixing is done at
would be in conventional asphalt con- range of aggregate types than other the work site. Weather does not signifi-
struction. cold mix processes. Foamed binder cantly affect the workability or the
increases sheer strength and reduces quality of the finished product, allow-
Material Properties. The foamed moisture susceptibility of granular ing work to be completed in cold
asphalt process rebuilds the roadway materials. weather and even in light rain. Material
from the bottom up, and can eliminate can be stockpiled with no binder run-
symptomatic problems associated with Construction. Compared to convention- off or leaching.
the existing road bed, such as reflective al road construction methods, such as


The Foamed Asphalt Recycling Process

Graphic courtesy of Wirtgen GmbH

Traffic. Foamed asphalt can be com- Peterson, PE, Caltrans’ North Region highway located in portions of the
pacted immediately, and can carry traf- Materials Engineer, Caltrans has also Plumas and Tahoe National Forests and
fic almost immediately following com- assisted local agencies in learning how maintained by Yuba County under a
paction. Often the entire process from to work with foamed asphalt. cooperative agreement. The project
pulverizing and injecting to final rolling Over eighteen foamed asphalt pro- employed Baldwin Construction as the
can be completed in 30 to 45 minutes. jects have been completed in California prime contractor and Durham
by FHWA (one project), by Caltrans Stabilization as the specialty subcon-
California’s Experience (four projects), and by five counties and tractor. Durham Stabilization used a
two cities (over a dozen local projects). CMI 650 Foam System, modified to per-
In the United States, the first reported See table 1 for a summary of the com- form similarly to a Wirtgen.
use of foamed asphalt was by the pleted foamed asphalt projects in In addition to these federal and
Georgia Department of Transportation, California. For this report, I contacted state projects, nearly 2.9 million square
in Ware County in 1982. In California, individuals in all of these jurisdictions,1 feet of California’s urban, rural and resi-
public agencies began to consider and all but one, Glenn County, were dential roads have been reconstructed
using the process in 1998/1999, when enthusiastic about foamed asphalt and in local projects by counties and cities.
Western Stabilization of Dixon, expected to use the process again. Of these local agencies, Yuba County is
California, sponsored an information The four foamed asphalt projects one of the most active in using foamed
session in the Sacramento area to intro- completed by Caltrans total approxi- asphalt. Kevin Mallen, Director of
duce foamed asphalt to Caltrans and to mately 3.5 million square feet of road- Public Works, and Van Boeck,
county and city transportation and road way. Baldwin Construction, Argonaut Managing Engineer, who led the coun-
departments. Glenn, Yuba and Solano Construction, and Teichert Construction ty’s participation in the May 2000
counties volunteered to host demon- were the prime contractors for these demonstration, completed their fifth
stration projects. Western Stabilization projects, all of which used Western foamed asphalt project in November
agreed to provide pulverizing/foaming Stabilization as the specialty subcon- 2003. According to Van Boeck, the
equipment pro bono while the county tractor to perform the pulverizing and process has been cost effective and the
agencies would provide materials, per- foamed asphalt injection, which was county will continue to use it.
sonnel and such equipment as graders done using a Wirtgen 2500 or a Although they did not participate in
and compacting rollers. The demonstra- Wirtgen 3000 machine with self-clean- the May 2000 demonstrations, Yolo
tions took place during May 2000. ing chambers as the pavement recycling County, like Yuba County, was an early
Caltrans has since used foamed system. adopter of the foamed asphalt process,
asphalt on SH20 west of I-5, on SH89 The FHWA foamed asphalt project and has undertaken several large pro-
in Plumas County, on SH132 in completed in California reconstructed jects. Darlene Comingore, Senior Civil
Modesto and on SH220 on Ryer Island 1.3 million square feet of Old Engineer for the Department of
in Solano County. Led by Joseph “Joe” Marysville Road, a forest development Planning and Public Works, believes
the process to be cost-effective because
materials are recycled (and credited to
Yolo County’s recycling efforts), and
because traffic can be allowed back
onto the treated section within a short
period of time.
Glenn County, host to a demonstra-
tion project in 2000, was the only juris-
diction interviewed dissatisfied with the

1Sixteen interviews were conducted for this

report. Individuals included one representative
from FHWA, two from Caltrans, nine from cities
and counties, and four contractors. They provid-
ed specific information on foamed asphalt pro-
jects in California and their experiences working
with the foamed asphalt process.

TA B L E 1

Completed Foamed Asphalt Projects in California

Surface Road Depth Riding Prime Contractor/ Additive Cost*

Area (sf) Length Course Specialty Sub-contractor (per sf)

Old Marysville Rd1a 731,680 5.2 mi 5” 4” AC Baldwin Construction/ 2.5% asphalt
Durham Stabilization & 1% cement $0.30
Old Marysville Rd1b 570,280 4.8 mi 8” 3” AC Baldwin Construction/ 2.5% asphalt
Durham Stabilization & 1% cement $0.32

SH20 1.5M AC Baldwin Construction/ 1% cement
Western Stabilization
SH89 1.2M AC Baldwin Construction/ 1% cement
Western Stabilization
SH220 382,000 chip seal Argonaut Construction/ 1% cement
Western Stabilization
SH132 361,290 AC Teichert Construction/ 4% fly ash
Western Stabilization

Road P 130,000 double chip seal In-house/Western Stabilization
& AC leveling (foaming machine only)

Kauffman Avenue 150,000 1.8 mi
Residential 1000 ft
Sherwood Road 1 mi

Hammonton/Smartville Rd 1.1M 7 mi 9-12” $0.24
McGowan Parkway 74,480 $0.56
Spenceville Road 242,580 $0.39
Ella Avenue
Wheatland Road

Several projects2a 467,188 6-7 mi Teichert Construction/ $0.372b
Durham Stabilization

Site 1 348,500 6” $0.34
Site 2 122,000 6” $0.45

City street 89,661 $0.25 - $0.35

Residential streets 160,000 Teichert Construction/
Western Stabilization $0.70

*Cost of performing the foaming, excluding the asphalt and cement costs, but including the full train (foamer, sheepsfoot roller, two graders, steel drum roller
and rubber tire roller). Figures may have been rounded.
1a Existing AC surface over lime stabilized clayey base
1b Existing AC surface over aggregate base
2a Several large projects on predominantly rural, agricultural roads with high ADT
2b The county requested that the project be pre-pulverized by the subcontractor; by this change order, the county received a credit back of $0.37 per sf

end smoothness of the foamed asphalt, from agencies increases, more specialty accurately determine subsurface mois-
which may have been a result of their contractors will enter the field. ture.
“non-standard” use of equipment for Most agencies, however, lack the
the process. The Glenn County “Equipment” versus “method” specialized equipment and in-house
Department of Public Works (DPW) specification. Initially, Caltrans con- expertise needed to perform the pre-
operates in a rural, agricultural region tracts for foamed asphalt projects used construction analysis and design. In
with limited resources and a small pop- “equipment” specifications particularly California, only Caltrans and one engi-
ulation. They generate their own aggre- suited to the Wirtgen machinery. Many neering geotechnical consulting firm
gate and perform most road projects in- local agencies patterned their contracts have the equipment needed to develop
house. The demonstration project was for foamed asphalt projects after the “R” resistivity value of the in-situ
performed on Road P between County Caltrans’, adopting similar special pro- material and the Traffic Index (or TI,
Road 24 and 25. Unlike other demon- visions for “equipment.” The Caltrans based on vehicle trips, especially of
stration counties, Glenn County chose specifications have since been trucks, over the proposed design peri-
to use its own workforce and equip- reviewed by a committee of Caltrans od). Others must outsource this pre-
ment to perform all of the work for the pavement engineers and industry repre- construction work; some have had to
demonstration, with the exception of sentatives. Future contracts for foamed go out-of-state. As demand increases
the foaming machine provided by asphalt projects will use a “method” the number of geotechnical firms
Western Stabilization. They used only specification that opens up the special- equipped to perform pre-construction
one grader, and did not use a sheeps- ized foaming process to contractors testing will probably increase.
foot roller or rubber tire roller. The with alternative equipment. FHWA has
resulting smoothness of the finished already performed one project in Testing performance specifications.
foamed asphalt pavement did not meet California using this “method” specifi- Many jurisdictions require test strips to
Glenn County’s expectations. Even after cation. determine whether the contractor and
placing a double chip seal on top of the equipment will be able to perform to
foamed asphalt, an additional asphalt Pre-construction testing. Joe Peterson, specifications. In Yolo County, the
concrete (AC) leveling course was Caltrans’ resident foamed asphalt Department of Planning and Public
required. Douglas Holvik, Director of expert, believes that “pre-engineering is Works requires that the contractor com-
the Glenn County Public Works and very important.” Because the mix plete a test strip before proceeding with
Development Services Agency, indicat- design uses actual, in-situ materials that in-place asphalt foaming to assure that
ed that the process did not suit their can vary widely in composition, place- the completed project will meet all of
particular needs. ment, and quality, advance testing is the intended targets of the design. Yuba
necessary to achieve optimum mix County management and staff affirm
design. Testing should confirm the suit- that they now have sufficient experi-
Lessons Learned ability of the sub-grade to react posi- ence with foamed asphalt to confident-
tively with the stabilizing agents and to ly evaluate each project from the
Limited number of contractors.
Adoption of the foamed asphalt process
in the US has been delayed by the lim-
ited availability of equipment capable
of making foamed asphalt application
efficient and economical. Currently,
only two contractors in Northern
California specialize in the foamed
asphalt process: Western Stabilization
and Durham Stabilization. In Southern
California, another company, Pavement
Recycling, uses the Canadian Sotar
machine for foamed asphalt. A fourth
company, Anrak, has obtained
machines and is considering entering
the field. Presumably, as the demand

outset, and have therefore discontinued
including the test strip as a bid item on
their projects
Even when a test strip is required,
some jurisdictions remain concerned
about the ultimate conformance of the
final product to initial design intent. On
FHWA’s Old Marysville Road project,
Edward Hanson indicated that the “final
product did not meet the anticipated
design values,” although in the after
tests the “project turned out looking
and riding very good.” On the other
hand, Amador County was pleased with
initial foamed asphalt results; however,
after only five months portions of Site 1
where detours are available, or for very pact), residents would have been incon-
showed cracks, mostly internal, in the
low volume roads where the entire road venienced for several days, instead of
two inch AC overlay. Investigation is
can be closed. hours.
underway to determine the cause.
For the FHWA project on Old
Marysville Road, Durham Stabilization Adding aggregate to existing base
Use of pre-pulverizing equipment.
used CMI pre-pulverizing equipment on material. New aggregate can be added
An existing roadway can be pulverized
the center-line in advance of two other to the base material and pulverized
and foamed in one pass, or the existing
CMI machines which applied the foam along with this existing pavement to
roadway can be pre-pulverized then re-
mixture. The pre-pulverizer had difficul- augment a structural section, to restore
pulverized and foamed in a second
ty processing large aggregates (cobbles) a cross-section, to re-establish a crown,
pass. The one-pass method is highly
and did break down. However, the or even to increase the percentage of
suitable for a roadway with shallow
break down did not cause undue delay. fines required for compaction. Both
asphalt (only two or three inches) and
The follow-up machines performing the Yuba and Amador counties have had
very consistent depth, but can also be
foaming process were still able to com- success using additional aggregate. On
used with success in other circum-
plete that day’s operations, and the con- some projects, Yuba County provided
tract requirement to allow free flow traf- the additional aggregate outside the
Caltrans does not presently allow
fic (ADT 1500-2000) by the afternoon contract specifications; on others, the
pre-pulverization on state highway pro-
was met. With pre-pulverization, the county included the extra aggregate as
jects out of concern that the equipment
process averages about one road-mile a bid item.
might break down and cause severe
or two lane-miles per day.
traffic delay. However, Robert Durham,
Pre-pulverization has also been Roadways with curbs and gutters.
of Durham Stabilization, said that he
used with success by the City of Davis Roadways with curb and gutter sections
prefers pre-pulverizing, because it actu-
on residential streets. According to can also be candidates for the asphalt
ally seems to decrease the chance of
Nancy McKee, Project Engineer for the foaming process, as demonstrated by
other equipment breakdown during the
Davis Public Works Department, treat- the City of Davis project on residential
re-pulverizing and foaming process.
ed sections were pre-pulverized in streets. Nancy McKee, Project Engineer,
Use of pre-pulverizing equipment
order to remove some material, so that said that the roadway immediately
may require adding another lane to the
proper cross-sections could be re-estab- adjacent to the gutter and curb was left
work zone. A pre-pulverizer run on the
lished. Ms. Mckee also noted that traffic untouched, so that it would be possible
center-line of a two-lane road will close
was restricted on the residential streets to retain a smooth transition to the rest
the entire roadway for the duration of
for only the short time that it took to of the structural section. Ms. McKee
reconstruction. However, a foamed
complete the operation, and that resi- indicated that the process worked
asphalt train without pre-pulverizing
dents were not severely inconve- very well.
equipment can be run in a single lane,
nienced. Under a conventional pave-
leaving the opposite direction open to
ment rehabilitation operation (requiring Smoothness. The foamed asphalt
traffic. For this reason, pre-pulverization
a crew to dig out, replace, and com- process appears to be a viable option
may be more acceptable on local roads

in rural areas, as long as the surface is face on a low-volume (AADT 260, Peak
sufficiently smooth that an agency can Month ADT 340) road on Ryer Island
use chip seals as the riding surface, and (accessible only by ferry), is currently The author expresses thanks to the following indi-
avoid a costly asphalt concrete (AC) viduals for the information they provided: Joseph
performing and riding well, according
F. Peterson, PE, North Region Materials Engineer,
leveling or riding course. Many agen- to both Caltrans and Solano County Caltrans, District 3, Marysville, California; Peter
cies prefer to use chip seals for the rid- personnel. Vacura, Pavement Engineer, Caltrans, Pavement
ing course due to the high cost of AC, Branch, Trans Lab, Sacramento, California;
which in rural areas of this state can Edward Hansen, Project Engineer, Federal
run well in excess of $50/ton, and Highway Administration, Central Federal Lands
Division; Douglas Holvik, PE, Agency Director,
because the agency can save additional Glenn County Public Works and Development
labor costs by performing the work in- Foamed asphalt base stabilization pro- Agency, Willows, California; Fred Botts, Road
house. duces a stronger, longer-lasting pave- Superintendent, Tehama County Department of
Given the quick-setting action of Public Works, Gerber, California; Kevin Mallen,
ment at a fraction of the cost and time
PE, Director, Yuba County Department of Public
the foaming process, compacting and than would be required for convention- Works, Marysville, California; Van Boeck,
grading must be performed by very effi- al reconstruction. Foamed asphalt is a Managing Engineer, Yuba County Department of
cient and well-qualified equipment viable, cost-effective, environmentally- Public Works, Marysville, California; Darlene G.
operators in order to achieve the level sensitive method to rehabilitate a road- Comingore, PE, Senior Civil Engineer, County of
of smoothness necessary for chip seals Yolo, Planning and Public Works Department,
way or street which has significantly
Woodland, California; Roderick Schuler, PE,
to be used for the riding course and to deteriorated from wear, or which was Director, County of Amador, Department of Public
afford a smooth ride. On one Yuba not originally constructed with a proper Works, Jackson, California; Tony Sanders,
County project, the recycling, compact- structural section. Assistant Civil Engineer, City of Chico,
ing and grading performed during day- Some agencies are hesitant, how- Department of Public Works, Chico, California;
Rich Snyder, Project Engineer, City of Chico,
light hours produced a very smooth sur- ever, to try foamed asphalt, because
Department of Public Works, Chico, California;
face, which would have been an excel- they lack experience with the process, Nancy McKee, Project Engineer, City of Davis,
lent candidate for a chip seal riding because of the scarcity of available test- Department of Public Works, Davis, California;
course. However, it should be well- ing consultants and their perceived Dick Stuart, General Manger, Western
noted that the portion worked at dusk Stabilization, Dixon, California; Robert Durham,
high-costs, or because the life
President, Durham Stabilization, Elk Grove,
and night did not turn out so smooth. expectancy for the product can not yet California; Marc Ingvoldsen, General
And, as illustrated by the experience of be accurately predicted. In answer to Superintendent, Baldwin Contracting Co., Inc.,
the Glenn County demonstration pro- concerns regarding the life expectancy Marysville Division, Marysville, California; Ron
ject, chip sealing a surface that is not of sections rehabilitated with foamed Hicks, Superintendent, Teichert Construction,
sufficiently smooth to begin with will Davis, California.
asphalt, I might point out that all of us
not produce a satisfactory result, and who have spent our working careers
All photographs courtesy of Caltrans.
may require placement of an additional trying to build, rebuild and maintain
AC leveling course anyway. roadways, have seen conventionally For more information, contact Don Raffaelli,
Note also that the use of an AC rid- implemented projects fail. We also real- California LTAP Field Engineer, at 707.443.5485
ing course will not guarantee smooth- ize that the determination of a structur- or Local agencies can contact
the author for free technical assistance on a vari-
ness either. Several completed foamed al section is dependent upon many fac-
ety of transportation issues.
asphalt projects in California which tors, including but not limited to, evolv-
have AC riding courses have undula- ing design criteria and construction The contents of this publication do not reflect the
tions and rough paving seams. When practices, the abilities of the construc- official views or policies of the University of
AC is used for the riding surface, a lev- California, the State of California, or the Federal
tion supervisors, the quality of materials
Highway Administration, and do not constitute a
eling course may be required, as well. used and ultimately the practice of long standard, specification or regulation. No part of
Although a very good inspector can term maintenance. this publication should be construed as an
require the paving machine operator to In my opinion, this process is well endorsement for a commercial product, manufac-
make appropriate adjustments that will worthwhile. All agencies should take turer, contractor or consultant. Any trade names
decrease roughness and undulations, or graphics of commercial products appear for
interest. Foamed asphalt, which recy-
clarity only.
two layers of AC may still be necessary. cles the existing roadway materials,
When the foamed asphalt is suffi- should be especially interesting to rural
© Regents of the University of California,
ciently smooth, chip seals can be used agencies on limited budgets and with-
December 2004
as the riding course. The SH220 pro- out ready, available access to raw mate-
ject, which used a chip seal riding sur- rials and asphalt plants.