Blacktop turns ‘green’

A crew for United Companies puts down new asphalt Friday at a park-and-ride lot at Interstate 70 Business Loop and F Road in Clifton. The asphalt is a mix that’s 40 degrees cooler than traditional paving material, resulting in a more environmentally friendly substance.

A Grand Junction contractor is going green when it comes to laying blacktop in Mesa County.

United Companies on Friday began paving a new park-and-ride facility in Clifton with a different mixture of asphalt that company officials say is not only more environmentally friendly, but also could extend the asphalt construction season by two months.

United is employing what is known as a warm-mix asphalt to pave the lot at the northeast corner of the intersection of the Interstate 70 Business Loop and F Road.

The warm mix is a modification to the traditional asphalt manufacturing process that allows workers to use cooler mixture temperatures for paving.

Workers add a quart of water for every ton of hot asphalt, creating a foam that reduces the viscosity of the mixture and makes it easier to compact the asphalt at cooler temperatures, United General Manager Kyle Alpha said.

The technology cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent at the asphalt plant. It also reduces the amount of smoke generated by the asphalt paving machine, creating a better work environment, Alpha said.

Because the warm-mix asphalt works at lower temperatures, it should allow contractors to begin paving earlier in the spring and finish paving later in the winter, said Josh Aubert, United project manager.

Warm-mix asphalt has been used in Europe for several years but has caught on in the U.S. in just the past few years, Alpha said. United used 15,000 tons of warm-mix asphalt last year to pave Mesa County roads.

Alpha said there are other warm-mix technologies, but this is the first Colorado Department of Transportation project in the state to use the water-based warm-mix asphalt.

“We really feel like paving is headed to warm mix from an emissions standpoint,” Aubert said. “We feel there one day won’t be a hot mix.”

CDOT owns the land where the park-and-ride facility is being built. The 136-space lot, which is used largely by Interstate 70 commuters, will be accessible from Peach Street and I-70B, CDOT Project Engineer Asa Farrington said.

CDOT is paying nearly $1 million for the additional parking in Clifton, which features the new lot and a 61-space lot created last year on the northwest corner of I-70B and F Road.

The county is picking up a $47,000 tab for improvements to Peach Street, Farrington said.

The new lot and the Peach Street improvements will be done in about a week.


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