The History and Future of Street Paving

All roads lead to Rome. Ancient Roman roads were famous for their quality and length, allowing them to link the vast empire together.

We’ve come a long way since then, but how has street paving changed, and how will it continue to change? Here’s a brief overview of the history of street paving and where it looks likely to go in the future.

Ancient Street Paving and Roads

People have built roads, causeways, and paths for thousands of years. The Sweet Track, a long wooden track through a swamp, is one of the oldest pathways in the world. It was but one of many paths made to help people get to important locations more easily.

The famous Roman roads were engineered and built for stability and sturdiness. They dug down and laid layers of gravel and rock, then capped the roads in places with street paving slabs. This kept the road hard and relatively easy to traverse, while also keeping it sturdy against erosion and wear.

Other places throughout the world also had well-built road systems. Unfortunately, many other areas’ roads were of much poorer quality, especially during some centuries. In medieval and industrial era Europe, for example, street paving materials were mostly gravel, which would become bogged down in mud whenever it rained.

In the 19th century, road design began changing more rapidly. Engineers started using asphalt on roads, mixing the oily substance with rocks and gravel to help keep roads from erosion in the weather. Since then, the same basic plan has stayed the same for roads.

Current Streets

For much of history, roads only had to be built to handle foot traffic, horses, and carts or buggies. However, with the introduction of automobiles, the street paving process had to change to accommodate these bigger, heavier vehicles. 

Modern roads and highways mostly have a layer of gravel or rocks, with a thick layer of asphalt on top. Some (like interstates) have an extra layer of concrete underneath for extra support, and places like Germany have much better base materials to help the roads last longer. 

Many roads are also built with a small slant to the sides, letting the water wash off into the ditch on the side of the road, reducing the buildup of water and ice.

What Will the Future Look Like?

Some countries are experimenting with different materials for their roads. Used tires and rubber have had quite a bit of success in some countries, and a street paving assessment shows that rubber roads tend to crack and wear less than asphalt roads. 

India has also been using plastic in some of its roads. Used plastic is ground up and mixed with traditional asphalt, reducing waste and costs of producing new roads.

Other new, innovative ideas are being experimented on around the world. These include roads with steel that can be repaired with powerful magnets, and new methods are being used in some places to reduce the effects of heat on roads and asphalt.

What we will probably see is street paving companies continuing to use asphalt in many roads, with more recycled materials and better construction strategies to improve durability and reduce costs. 

Learn More About Street Paving Today

If you’d like to learn more about street paving or the ways in which new technology is improving the ways we travel, we’d love to help!

Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have, or to schedule your next construction project. We want to give you the best results possible!

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