MnDOT tests pavement made with recycled materials in Wright County

A new type of pavement that could be used to build roads across Minnesota is being put to the test in Wright County.

It’s made from recycled materials and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is doing research along Interstate 94 in Monticello to see how it performs under various conditions.

“You talk about plastic bottles, different types of scrap rubber, things like that,” said Ben Worel, MnROAD operations engineer.

Worel says that’s exactly what they’re using in this project. In nearly 40 sections along this test area between Monticello and Albertville, environmentally sustainable products are mixed in with asphalt and concrete.

“These are things that are going into the landfill, and if we can figure out a way to effectively use them in our roadways and it performs just as well as when we’re not using them, that’s the sweet spot of trying to bring these different types of products in our roadway,” Worel said.

Small sensors underneath that pavement relay important information on how it’s responding to things like heavy traffic and extreme weather.

“As trucks go by, or different temperatures, we measure those different properties throughout the year,” Worel said. When asked if the sensors are the brains of the operation, he responded: “It’s not a lot of brains but it’s enough of what we need.”

For drivers, you shouldn’t notice a difference on the road.

“You’re going to have rough pavements, you’re going to have smooth pavements and everything in between,” Worel said.

Now MnDOT will study the environmental and financial impacts of using this recycled material in the pavement. If it works, we could see more of it beyond just this 3.5-mile stretch.

“They try things, try things that maybe you didn’t think would work and if they do work it’s a great benefit so we’re looking at both our successes and failures,” Worel said.