Why do roads go to pot?
  • Tuesday 11 November 2014
winding road


That’s what Sunshine Coast Council and the University of the Sunshine Coast are en route to finding out via a unique project that’s putting our road pavements to the test.

Transport Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said the high tech monitoring was a potential game-changer for the future of road construction.

“Council and the University of the Sunshine Coast started this testing in late 2012 by installing sophisticated road monitoring equipment into three key road sites,” he said.

“The state of the art monitoring equipment used in this testing has been measuring how these roads are performing in real-time and wirelessly transmitting data back to the engineering department at the university.

“Sensors were installed into the road pavement at varying depths to monitor strains, moisture, pore pressure and temperature in the road as well as the traffic that uses the road.”

University of the Sunshine Coast Professor of Civil Engineering Construction John Yeaman said the first two years of testing had revealed plenty of new information about road pavements.

“Firstly, the strains on roads that cause fatigue and damage are heavily dependent on seasonal changes,” he said.

“So the full range of temperature extremes should be factored into the thickness of road pavement that is required for an area rather than just the average yearly temperature that is the current method.

“Heavy rainfall was also found to cause large changes in the magnitude of stresses on road pavements and the materials underneath the road surface even without traffic.

"A previously held theory that one truck does the same amount of damage to a road as 10,000 cars was also thrown into some doubt, with some four-wheel drives and SUVs straining the road surface as much as a large truck.

“Another interesting finding was that when a road is free from traffic for a period of time it can actually recover from a lot of the damage it suffered while under traffic.”

Monitoring equipment was recently installed in five more roads across the Sunshine Coast. Professor Yeaman said data gathered from these sites would be used by five PhD candidates at the university to devise a method to design, construct, maintain and review future road pavements.

“The data we’re acquiring through this testing is changing the face of future road design and construction and has the potential to make Sunshine Coast Council and the University of the Sunshine Coast world leaders in this field,” he said.

“From this we hope to be able to help design long lasting roads that will suit the specific environmental conditions they are placed in and ensure the most economical use of resources and funding is achieved.”