PAVING and 3D Machine Control (Part 1)

Randy Noland, Editor MCoThe applications for 3D positioning and machine control continue to expand. Paving, milling and curb and gutter applications is no exception.

The purpose of this article is to provide a brief history and evolutionary overview for positioning technology as it relates to paving and why this will translates to millions of dollars in efficiency savings.

Paving History
All the earliest paving in America seems to have been done with cobblestones. The first mention of paving is found in a court record in New Amsterdam in 1655, a reference to repairs of the paving in Pearl Street. Brouwer Street was paved with cobbles in 1658 and thereafter called Stone Street, even to the present time. Several other short New York streets were paved before 1700. In Boston, State and Washington Streets were cobble paved in the seventeenth century. In 1719, it was said that some citizens of Philadelphia laid stone to the middle of the street in front of their own property, but the city was notorious for muddy thoroughfares for many decades thereafter. Alongside some city streets very narrow brick or slab stone sidewalks were laid as early as 1700. Some macadamizing with broken stone or gravel and some cobble paving were done in the eighteenth century, but even in 1800 most city streets were still given over to dust or mud. In fact, some downtown business streets in New York were quagmires as late as 1850, and in Chicago streets remained dirty and muddy long after that.

In 1832, what is said to have been the first granite or Belgian block pavement in America was laid in New York. That city also introduced wood paving in 1835, laid in hexagonal blocks, a technique said to be Russian in origin. Later, cities lay square blocks. Although wooden paving was easy on horses, and the clumping of their hoofs was muffled on impact, wet weather caused the wood to swell and become uneven. When Chicago burned in 1871, the weather had been so dry that even the wooden paving burned. In New Orleans, built on soft alluvial soil, many streets were surfaced with thick wooden planks laid cross-wise—some streets until well into the twentieth century.

With the coming of the automobile and the decline of horse transportation, wood paving in urban centers declined. The first brick street paving was laid in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1870. New York first tried laying asphalt in 1877 and pronounced it a failure, though the technique quickly became popular. After 1900, asphalt paving began slowly to be replaced by concrete, which for some years had been vying with sawed Bedford stone in popularity for sidewalks. Various mixtures of crushed stone with tar, bitumen, asphalt, and cement were developed for streets and roads as the automobile era dawned, but for the main highways, concrete came to be the only material considered. Glass paving bricks were announced in 1905 but never came into use, and rubber paving was tried in 1923.

By 1970 the surface paving of streets in most major cities was a bituminous mixture from either asphalts (petroleum products) or tars (coal products). Modern roads require several layers of pavement to support heavy vehicles moving at high speeds. Modern paving engineers design highways and interstates with three distinct layers, which includes the roadbed, base course, and wearing course, the latter being either asphalt or concrete. "

Paving." Dictionary of American History. 2003. 30 Dec. 2010 <>.

Asphalt Paving Industry
The asphalt paving industry is the industry segment that builds the world’s asphalt motorways, highways, streets, airport runways, parking areas, driveways, foot- paths and cycle paths, and sport and play areas. In order to avoid confusion, the term “asphalt” as used in this document is in accord with European convention and refers to a mixture of bitumen and mineral aggregate designed for specific paving applications. By far, the predominant use of bitumen globally is asphalt paving, which consumes more than 85 percent of bitumen produced worldwide. Asphalt plays a vital role in global transportation infrastructure and drives economic growth and social well-being in developed as well as developing countries (Mangum, 2006).

In addition to the construction and maintenance of motorways and trunk roads (major highways), asphalt is also used extensively for rural roads and urban streets, airport runways and taxiways, private roads, parking areas, bridge decks, footways, cycle paths, and sports and play areas.

Europe and North America have by far the most extensive networks of paved roads and highways in the world. In Europe, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of the 5.2 million km (3.2 million mi) of paved roads and highways are surfaced with asphalt. In the U.S., more than 92 percent of the more than 4 million km (2.5 million mi) of roads and highways are surfaced with asphalt. In addition, about 85 percent of airport runways and 85 percent of parking areas in the U.S. are surfaced with asphalt (Mangum, 2006). Canada has about 415,000 km (258,000 mi) of paved roads, and Mexico has about 178,000 km (110,000 mi). In Canada about 90 percent of roads are surfaced with asphalt, as are about 96 percent in Mexico.

There are about 344,000 km (176,000 mi) of roads in Central and South America; about 64,000 km (77,000 mi) in Australia and New Zealand combined; about 1.5 million km (979,000 mi) in China; and 2.5 million km (1.3 million mi) in the rest of Asia.

Asphalt Production Statistics
In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, about 1.6 trillion metric tones of asphalt was produced worldwide. The chart below shows the geographic distribution of production by continent.

“The Asphalt Paving Industry: A Global Perspective” is a joint publication of the European Asphalt Pavement Association (EAPA) and the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA).


This summarizes a brief history for paving and how large and important the industry has become. In the next article, we will discuss traditional methods further and the evolution of positioning technology. Thanks for reading and I hope you will join me next issue.

For a taste of some of the technology we will be discuss next issue, please reference this article posted July 9, 2009 at and written by Daniel E. Galbraith, PSM, PLS 

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