Extreme weather makes for perfect conditions for MnDOT pavement testing

While most Minnesotans aren’t exactly welcoming this deep freeze, it’s just the kind of temperature MnDOT researchers have been waiting for.

“With the temperatures, we’re expecting to see today and tonight, we could be at that point where we could see some cracking - we’ve got our fingers crossed,” said Dave Van Deusen, MnDOT research operations engineer. “In order to design against something, you have to actually make it happen,” said Van Deusen.

The MnRoad is a three-mile stretch of I-94W between Albertville and Monticello. It’s where MnDOT officials complete testing to make sure the right materials are being used on the roads and that those materials are holding up to the conditions. Cracks are the enemy of the road and experiments right in the middle of the elements give real life data to help MnDOT in the fight.

“In the winter, it’s cracking, we get from shrinkage in the asphalt pavement, and cracks we obviously don’t want them, we want to delay that as much as possible,” said Van Deusen.

That data from MnRoad gets analyzed back at the MnDOT materials lab in Maplewood. The hope is to develop solutions that prevent and delay the cracks.

“Benefits to drivers is you get a longer lasting, smooth ride, less dollars being spent on pavement, less disruptions to your commute, less use of materials,” said Van Deusen.

MnDOT officials say there can also be problems when there are swings in temperature, like the warmup expected this weekend. They say, however, the bigger problems with cracks will become apparent in the spring after the big thaw.