Are plastic roads the future?

Could the transportation industry help deal with our plastic problem?

The Federal Highway Administration is looking for a way to do that.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2015 that approximately 34.5 million tons of plastic is disposed of each year, according to a research proposal recently released by the FHWA. Some of that plastic refuse was either recycled or incinerated, but most—26 million tons—ended up in landfills.

The FHWA is hoping someone will discover a way to incorporate that plastic waste into the 350 million tons of pavement produced annually, according to the research proposal.

This approach has been researched before, the FHWA said, but failed to clear the hurdle of compatibility between asphalt and plastic.

Yet, in its proposal, the FHWA said “renewed interest by a broad cross-section of plastics and highway stakeholders, rather than individual parties, presents potential to stimulate a new breakthrough related to compatibilization of waste plastic and asphalt cement.”

Dear Scott: As you are eastbound on Dahlgren Road (State Route 206) after Lucas Lane but before Peppermill Creek, the drainage ditch is eroding away. This is causing the brand-new roadway to crumble. VDOT spent all this money this past summer on Route 206 and did nothing about this issue.

I figure by spring we’ll be back to what is was. Good use of taxpayer money. Not to mention there have been a number of wrecks in the area because people drop their right wheels off the end, overcorrect and flip.

—Jim Morris, King George

VDOT’s Northern Neck residency manager checked the location in question, where the road was widened by about 1.5 feet and repaved to help drivers avoid having their tires slip over the pavement’s edge, according to local VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

She said no broken pavement or drainage issues were discovered at the spot.

But Hannon added that VDOT “would like to call more attention to the edge of the pavement for drivers.”

To do that, VDOT will install delineator poles along the shoulder in the area as a way to “alert drivers to the road’s edge,” Hannon said. “While providing an additional safety measure, this will also reduce the risk of deterioration at the road edge from vehicle tires crossing over the pavement edge.”

She said VDOT also will monitor the location to make sure there are no issues with water drainage.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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