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When it comes to highway paving technologies, the bottom line — where the rubber meets the road — is that everyone who lives and draws breath in this country benefits from a robust transportation system. And because of the generosity of the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) and Glen Barton, a 1961 civil engineering alumnus, who is also the retired chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering will have a hand in our shared transportation future.

MAPA and Barton each made a pledge of $550,000 toward an endowed chair in civil and environmental engineering to bring research, innovation and education in flexible pavement technologies to Mizzou. The Barton Chair in Flexible Pavement has not yet been filled, but in anticipation of the initiative, the college will be offering its first course in basic asphalt in the 2011 spring semester.

“Civil engineering is fortunate that Chris Yarnell of the Jefferson Asphalt Company will be teaching our first course in flexible pavements this spring semester,” said Mark Virkler, C.W. LaPierre professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and department chairman. “The course has already generated a great deal of student interest and will have a significant enrollment.”

“This gift from Mr. Barton and MAPA is a win-win; it will be great for the industry and will be great for our students. But the MU budget constraints and the accompanying hiring freeze placed a bump in the road and have temporarily delayed our search for hiring a nationally prominent educator and researcher for the flexible pavement chair position,” Virkler added. “We look forward to bringing in a prominent scholar who will enhance the education of our students and, through research and service activities, help to improve the quality of flexible pavements in Missouri and throughout the nation.”

Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association

“I realize the importance of education,” said David Yates, executive director of MAPA. “If we get this in at the college level, students will come out knowing asphalt; you’re really talking some significant impact. It’s a model that’s valuable for industry.”

MAPA has a history of working with Missouri S&T in Rolla, and Yates said that he and Charlie Nemmers, director of civil engineering’s Transportation Infrastructure Center, have been in discussion for some time about how the association might lend its support to MU.

Sam Kiger, a civil engineering professor and the college’s associate dean for research, joined the conversation and they decided that for MAPA to be really effective, they should endow a chair, in order to have a professor teaching students and conducting research in flexible pavements, an investment that would require a “cool million.”.

“I wasn’t intimidated by the price tag,” Yates said, adding that a hundred ideas to fund it began running through his mind. “Then Mr. Barton stepped up and that was the catalyst that put us into this endeavor. That meant we could fund [a professorship at] Rolla and the chair at MU. It was beyond my wildest dreams.”

The ultimate idea Yates hit upon to fund the chairmanship was for each of MAPA’s producer members to contribute 50 cents per liquid ton of asphalt they purchased. Liquid asphalt generally runs somewhere between $400 and $500 per ton. When this is mixed with crushed aggregate, it makes flexible asphalt pavement. Three-quarters of the monies collected would go to the association’s educational fund, and the remainder would build its reserves.

“I went to each of the 17 hot-mix [asphalt pavement mix] producer-owners, visiting the biggest ones first,” said Yates, explaining that “whether it’s I-44 or a parking lot,” all asphalt paving contractors, both producer and non-producer MAPA members buy their hot-mix asphalt from these companies. “I knew that if the larger ones weren’t on board, there was no point spending time talking to the rest of them.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how well this professorship chair idea was received. They signed an agreement that they were willing to do this with the understanding that when it is fully funded, it will sunset. One hundred percent of the industry signed off on it,” Yates said.

“I’d like MU to be the top asphalt university in the country at some point in time,” said Yates. “Funding this position is probably one of the most significant things our industry has done in the State of Missouri.”

Glen Barton

Engineering alumnus Glen Barton said he is “very familiar” with flexible pavement. His first exposure occurred during his college years when he spent three summers doing co-ops with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

The taste of road construction and paving he got as an engineering student influenced his decision to go to work for Caterpillar, Inc., when he graduated in 1961. It was a good fit, and he stayed with the company, rising through the ranks, until he retired as CEO in early 2004.

Caterpillar is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of construction equipment, including paving machinery. With 108,000 employees worldwide, the company’s global headquarters is located in Peoria, Ill. And Barton said the company continues to expand its paving business in Europe and Asia.

Barton and his wife, Polly, have stayed busy since his retirement. One thing that has occupied Barton’s time was serving on the leadership committee for MU’s recent capital campaign.

“In those positions, there is the expectation you will make a gift — as an example to those whom the college is soliciting,” Barton said. “I was looking for a way to help the College of Engineering meet their goal, and I asked for ideas.

“Of the five ideas that were advanced to me, the chair in flexible pavement was closest to my interests,” he said. “And Dean Jim Thompson always emphasizes the importance of attracting good faculty.”

Barton said that the new chair and emphasis at MU is an important one since there’s a lot happening in the area of paving.

“We’re not always going to have asphalt as we know it today, but we will always need pavement. That’s the next step in the equation. There’s a lot of new technology coming into play and several different options that are being experimented with,” he said.

Flexible Pavement 101

Yates explained that flexible asphalt pavement is simply crushed rock or stone that is mixed with liquid asphalt — the stuff that is left at the bottom of a barrel of crude oil. There are different mixes for different locations and environments. These days, recycled materials like plastic, glass, tires, shells and shingles are being used instead of rock. “We call it trashphalt,” Yates joked.

In the 1990s, explained Yates and MAPA Assistant Executive Director Dale Williams, the national Strategic Highway Research Program developed “Superior Performing Asphalt Pavements”, or “Superpave Technology.” Essentially, Superpave is a prescribed system that gives engineers and contractors tools to design asphalt pavements to perform better under all sorts of ambient temperature and loading extremes, based on pavement performance characteristics. It includes a new mix design.

“It was one of the greatest things that ever happened to our industry,” Yates said.

“Before, we just knew how to make asphalt; now we know the asphalt we make,” said Williams, who is a 1996 MU agricultural and civil engineering dual major graduate who worked for MoDOT prior to joining MAPA. He was hired to replace Yates, who will retire in February.

Yates, much like Mr. Barton, emphasized that there is a lot of sophisticated chemistry in hot mix asphalt, which affects the quality of the final product, and that there are all sorts of different things being tried. Researchers are experimenting with various alternatives, like synthetic binders and polymers.

“MoDOT and Shell are doing research with hydrogen sulfide as a binder replacement. Chris Williams out of Iowa State University is working on a bio-binder to replace asphalt,” Yates continued.

Williams, an associate professor in civil, construction and environmental engineering at ISU, has in fact developed a “bioasphalt” that uses a bio-oil produced from materials like corn stalks and wood wastes using a thermochemical process. The new product is being tested on a Des Moines bike trail. It is the type of project that might eventually come out of the MU College of Engineering’s flexible pavement research program.

Yates is quick to point out that asphalt is already the most recycled product in North America, if not the world. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 100 million tons of asphalt pavement are milled off of asphalt roads each year during resurfacing and other projects, and 80 percent of it is reused.

And, as Barton indicated, Caterpillar was a pioneer in the recycling business, creating the machinery that does the milling.

“This technology is around us every day, from parking lots to the roads we drive on. That’s why it’s important to all of us,” Barton said.

“The endowed chair position in flexible pavement will help us attract a truly outstanding educator and researcher to MU,” Virkler said.

Many thanks to the following MAPA members who committed to funding the Barton Chair in Flexible Pavement Technology at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering.

  • APAC – Missouri Inc., Columbia, Mo.
  • Apex Paving Company, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
  • Chester Bross Construction Company, Hannibal, Mo.
  • Fred Weber, Inc., Maryland Heights, Mo.
  • G & M Concrete & Asphalt Co., Inc., Troy, Mo.
  • Herzog Contracting Corporation, St. Joseph, Mo.
  • Hutchens Construction Company, Cassville, Mo.
  • Ideker, Inc., St. Joseph, Mo.
  • Jefferson Asphalt Company, Jefferson City, Mo.
  • Leo Journagan Construction Company, Inc.,
  • Springfield, Mo.
  • N.B. West Contracting Company, Inc.,
  • Brentwood, Mo.
  • APCO Asphalt & Aggregate, Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Pace Construction Company, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Simpson Construction Materials L.L.C., Fenton, Mo.
  • Superior Bowen Asphalt Company, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Swift Construction Company, Inc., Neosho, Mo.