In 2004, a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and the asphalt-paving industries led to a $40 million experimental test project in Wayne County, Ohio, on U.S. Route 30. The intent of the experiment was to identify which pavement style is superior in both performance and lifecycle cost over equal 20-year design-life specifications.

The results are in: concrete wins!

The study challenged the concrete and asphalt industries to provide their best long-term pavement designs to pave approximately eight miles of the four-lane highway, just east of Wooster, Ohio. During the fall of 2005, the two eastbound lanes were placed in concrete and the two westbound lanes were surfaced in asphalt. The soil, contractor and length of road were identical, as were the weather conditions. However, over the course of the experiment, ODOT found that the durability of each material was not.

Five years after construction, the asphalt portion of the pavement required patching and repair work. After 10 years of service, the asphalt drive lanes had deteriorated to the point of needing complete resurfacing—at a price tag of $1.8 million. Meanwhile, the more resilient concrete pavement has not needed any repairs. 

Due to the cost difference between concrete and asphalt 10 years ago, the initial quote for the concrete portion was $600,000 higher than the comparative asphalt section—but the surface repair costs ultimately made concrete the less expensive material. If the same project was bid today, however, there would be no difference in initial costs.

For more on the study, watch the PCA video Best Way to Build a Road, U.S. 30 Ohio.