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John MacDonald: More concrete roads needed

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Nov 2023, 1:26PM
Photo / Peter de Graaf | File
Photo / Peter de Graaf | File

John MacDonald: More concrete roads needed

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Nov 2023, 1:26PM

Imagine building a road and it lasts 70 years. That’s what a concrete expert from the US is saying we could do here in New Zealand if we used more concrete instead of asphalt everywhere. 

Eric Ferrebee is the Senior Director of Technical Services with the American Concrete Pavement Association. 

Now I’m no concrete expert. I’m no asphalt expert either. But I reckon concrete roads would be a gamechanger here in New Zealand. Because, let’s face it, if we’re going to keep on using the stuff we’re using at the moment, we’re going to see no improvement in the state of our roads and footpaths. 

Potholes being the obvious downside of asphalt. You imagine concrete. Completely different story. 

I remember after the earthquakes when the multi-storey library at the University of Canterbury was having some remediation work. And, on every floor, they were squirting some sort of resin into the cracks and one of the guys doing it told me that the floors would be even stronger with the resin than they were before the quake. 

As I say, I’m not an expert. And yes, even concrete roads would crack. But I’m guessing you could do the same thing to repair a concrete road or footpath. And that increased strength would be the same. Imagine that. 

This concrete expert from the States did say that building roads and footpaths using concrete would be more expensive upfront. But the need for less repairs as the roads age would be a money-saver. 

He said in the US they use a mix of concrete and asphalt. Some states use more, others use less. And for some states, the up-front cost is a factor.  

But when you think about the number of potholes we have and the repairs which only seem to last a few days, then concrete roads are a no-brainer. 

And not just roads. Concrete footpaths too. Again, I’m not an expert. But I reckon you’d still get tree roots poking through on footpaths, like you do now. But, when you compare it to asphalt, concrete roads and footpaths have to be the future, surely. 

The biggest producers of concrete are China and India - but we do make it here as well. Golden Bay Cement is one outfit that comes to mind. Holcim is another one.  

It’s probably no coincidence that this expert from the States is in the country now. Because there’s a big conference going on about roads 

It’s called “Future Roads” and it’s all about discussing strategy and planning for roads. And I know there is going to be some talk about concrete roads because the chief executive of Concrete NZ is one of the speakers. 

And he’s going to be telling people at the conference that concrete is key to making our transport network in New Zealand more resilient and long-lasting. I’ve been reading his latest newsletter where he says that he thinks concrete is the solution to the pothole plague we have here. 

Now you might think he would say that, being the head of the outfit that represents the concrete industry. But I’m not going to argue with him. I’m also not going to argue with this expert from the States who reckons we could build roads that last 70 years with concrete. 

It’s a no-brainer. 

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