Can roads be rain-proofed?

June 11, 2009 3:57:32 PM PDT
A unique type of pavement making its Houston debut could turn a section of Beltway 8 into a super absorbent roadway. Drivers traveling between Fallbrook and West Gulf Bank should really be able to tell the difference on rainy days.That stretch of Beltway 8 is notorious for accidents, especially when it rains. Now the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) wants to change that, and it's doing a $4 million experiment.

At first glance, there's nothing special about the stretch of road, but a closer look magnifies the difference.

"It's a lot more porous. It's a lot more open," explained Quinton Alberto with HCTRA. "It's not as smooth as pavement."

It's called permeable friction course, or PFC. It's a type of 1 ½ inch asphalt with tiny holes and air pockets. So when water hits it, it's absorbed.

Alberto says the new asphalt overlay could make wet weather driving safer, especially on this dangerous stretch of the beltway.

He said, "It will improve the surface drainage of the pavement itself, which then reduces the likelihood of hydroplaning."

The $4 million project is a first for HCTRA. Drivers we spoke to had mixed feelings about the project.

"I think they should replace where the road is bad, and then work with it from there," said driver Derrek Thompson.

Driver Sylvia Goodrum said, "If it helps save lives, it's worth it."

If this new asphalt proves beneficial here, HCTRA could use it to pave other areas of the toll road across the city.

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