The Bridge, Vol. 25, No. 2, October 2011
By John Ryynanen, Editor
Center for Technology & Training
A 2.65 mile asphalt paving project on a twisting two-lane road in Ada Township, Michigan in early July generated attention from local, state and federal transportation officials. The occasion was the first use of the Safety Edge paving technique in Michigan. The Safety Edge technique, developed jointly by the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal highway Administration (FHWA) based on a research concept, creates a 30 degree taper along a pavement’s edge to eliminate dangerous drop-offs. It is not intended to replace regular shoulder maintenance; rather, when shoulder gravel settles or is worn away, the Safety Edge provides a gradual and safer transition between the pavement and the shoulder until maintenance can be performed. Local road agencies in Michigan have been hesitant to use this new paving technique because of concerns about reduced durability and the perception that it may be difficult to maintain shoulder gravel on the tapered edge.
Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) owns the road on which the Safety Edge was installed in Ada Township, and they coordinated its installation. Managing Director of KCRC, Jon Rice learned about the Safety Edge initiative through his involvement with the National Association of County Engineers (NACE), where he serves as Northeast Region Vice President and is involved on several committees that deal with roadway safety and pavement preservation. “When I volunteered through NACE to participate in the Every Day Counts meetings with FHWA, I learned they were promoting the Safety Edge,” Rice explained. “Since we are sensitive to the issue of edge drops and also had concerns about the potential problem with maintaining gravel at the safety edge joint, I wanted to try a section here so we and other local agencies could find out more for ourselves.”