As Indiana state lawmakers are pressed to take immediate action on the state’s infrastructure problems, there is concern that nearly 200 road projects could crumble years ahead of schedule.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is testing asphalt samples representing $71 million in work statewide.
“This is something that came from our own analysis and our own review,” Will Wingfield said, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson.
What tests have uncovered could be problematic, potential critical mistakes by contractors that could dramatically reduce the viability of new roads by years.
In some instances, local officials have been notified the lifespan of some of those roads could be cut by 30 percent.
“We’re still assessing at this point, so exactly the scope of it we’re not entirely certain,” Wingfield said.
Transportation officials said no final conclusions have been reached.
But of the roughly 855 projects reviewed, 188 remain in question. The concern is some contractors might not be using enough of a petroleum binder, which holds the asphalt together.
“It’s about the question of premature aging,” Wingfield said. “So we’re trying to predict if a pavement will age prematurely and if so when, and determine how much we’ve gotten for what we’ve paid.”
The testing comes as state lawmakers are set to embark on a serious debate on how to fix Indiana’s crumbling infrastructure, projected to cost billions of dollars.
“I think it’s going to take some outside the box thinking to come up with this funding,” State Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) said, who is chairman of an interim study committee on transportation. “I think everybody has to pay their fair share, at least individuals who use the roads.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation won’t yet make public the specific contractors or projects in question, citing the ongoing review. Nonetheless transportation officials said they are preparing to take action.
“We want the contractors to come to the table and help us understand process,” Wingfield said. “Maybe there’s something we’re not seeing as well.”
Wingfield said the agency will require contractors to either replace the asphalt or take a pay cut based on the reduced lifespan on the roadway.