This is why the type of road surface and the construction materials used are such an important part of running the Minnesota road system, directly correlating to how often drivers experience the inconvenience of road construction.

The goal should be to extend the life of highway roads as long as possible before they need major repair or replacement. Of course, that would also mean less road construction – and less frustration and inconvenience for motorists.

One solution is to use a concrete coating. Most concrete roads last 35 years or more before needing repairs.

There are many roads around Duluth that are excellent examples of sound planning and paving decisions. Much of Interstate 35 has been covered with concrete and is expected to last longer in the Duluth area than anywhere else in the state. The new Twin Ports interchange on I-35, Interstate 535 and Minnesota Highway 53 in Duluth will be paved with concrete starting this year.

In 2019, construction took place on I-35 from Pine City to the Chisago County line, on both lanes, north and south. Over the past 10 years, more than half of the I-35 south line from Pine County to Duluth has received a beneficial concrete layer.

Some streets in Duluth’s Chester Park neighborhood are over 100 years old and still going strong.

Importantly, federally funded studies show that concrete interstate pavements cost 13-28% less in the long run than asphalt interstate pavements.

Concrete also has advantages such as durability: concrete is 100% recyclable, produced locally and reflects more light-reducing urban heat islands. It is also slightly more fuel efficient than other surfaces because it is so smooth and sturdy.

The bottom line: Duluth area roads covered with concrete will be smooth, safe and low-maintenance for at least 35 more years – and won’t need to be replaced for more than 60 years.

We can no longer afford to meet road repair needs with short term solutions. For drivers and sustainability, concrete roads are the right direction to go.

Matt Zeller of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is executive director of the Concrete Paving Association of Minnesota (concreteisbetter.com).


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