Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Road Research

NRRA Rigid Team

The Use of Alternative Cementitious Materials in Concrete Pavements

Status: Active
Project End Date: March 31, 2027

Objectives

This project will evaluate a number of alternative cementitious concrete products used to construct concrete pavement test sections at MnROAD by monitoring their performance over at least a 3-year period. Data collection will include: surface distress surveys, transverse joint faulting and movement, falling weight deflectometer (FWD) testing, ride quality measurements, embedded strain sensor data, ultrasonic tomography (MIRA) testing, curling and warping measurements, and extracted core samples. Using this and other available information (for example, life-cycle assessment [LCA] and environmental impact data), the following items are expected to be addressed to achieve the project objectives over the contracting period:

  1. Determining the characteristics to be considered when selecting alternative cementitious materials.
  2. Identification of the factors to be considered when designing mixtures containing these materials.
  3. Development of guidelines for successfully producing and placing these materials in the field.
  4. Identification of the testing to be performed during paving and acceptance after hardening.
  5. Quantification of the impact of alternative cementitious concrete materials on structural pavement performance and durability.

The results of this project will shed light on the factors impacting the production and placement of alternative cementitious concrete materials, the feasibility of using them on large-scale pavement construction projects, and the environmental impacts associated with these materials. The findings from the research will provide state highway agencies (SHAs) information to consider in the implementation of alternative cementitious concrete materials, perhaps ultimately leading to their adoption as a routine paving alternative. A set of draft material and construction specifications will be developed as a means of promoting the use and adoption of these materials by SHAs.

Tasks

Task 1: Literature Review

In this task, the project team will perform a thorough search and detailed review of literature on alternative cementitious products suitable for pavements. The literature review will focus on the associated materials and sources, mix design procedures, properties and characteristics, handling and placement, short- and long-term performance, limitations, and gaps/research needs. This information will be compiled into a technical memorandum delivered to State, along with a technical presentation to the TAP.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned and results obtained during the literature search
  • Date due: August 31, 2022

Task 2: Construction Testing Analysis

Construction testing data will be collected by State and provided to the research team. The tests anticipated to be performed on the fresh concrete used in the test sections include slump, unit weight, water content, formation factor, and flexural/compressive strength. The following tests are anticipated to be performed on hardened concrete: unrestrained volume change, freeze-thaw durability, air voids in hardened concrete, and petrographic analysis. Some of these tests may not be applicable to concrete with alternative cementitious binders, so alternative tests or additional interpretation of test results may be required and will be identified in the Task 1 Literature Review. The data from construction testing will be entered into a Microsoft Access database and crosslinked with test section information. Data will be compiled, and descriptive statistics will be calculated for comparison with control sections (typical State concrete mixtures). The petrographic analysis report (performed by others) will be reviewed, and key findings compared to construction test data. A technical report will be prepared to summarize task findings and submitted to the TAP, along with a summary presentation to the TAP. Under this task, two members of the project team (Mr. Prashant Ram and Mr. Kurt Smith) will travel to the MnROAD facility for a 1- to 2-day visit to document the construction activities. The exact dates for the site visit will be decided later in conjunction with the TAP based on the construction schedule of the test cells at the MnROAD facility.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned and results obtained from construction testing and observations
  • Date due: May 31, 2023

Task 3: Constructability Evaluation

Several factors impact the ability to produce consistent quality concrete paving mixtures in large volumes. Left unchecked, mixture variability can result in inconsistent workability, poor consolidation, less durable concrete, and can detrimentally impact short- and long-term performance. Under this task, the project team will evaluate the feasibility of large-scale construction using the concrete mixtures used at the MnROAD test cells. The following elements will be evaluated to assess the constructability of concrete mixtures containing alternative cementitious binders: material availability; material handling considerations; equipment used to mix and place materials; issues related to mixing, transporting, placing, and curing; impact of admixtures; and ease of making field adjustments. In addition to the information gathered as a part of the literature review conducted under Task 1 and the comprehensive report documenting the construction of the test cells at MnROAD (provided by State) is also expected to provide key insights related to any issues encountered during construction. A technical report will be prepared to summarize task findings and submitted to the TAP, along with a summary presentation to the TAP.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned related to the constructability evaluation
  • Date due: September 30, 2023

Task 4: 1st Year Performance Update

Under this task, the performance data collected by the State during the first year on four 250-ft long pavement test sections (in addition to one control section) will be obtained and entered in the project database. The following data are expected to be provided by State: FWD data, seasonal ride quality measurements, distress survey information, load test data from embedded dynamic strain sensors, MIRA and fault meter measurements, joint opening measurements (automated and manually collected), curling and warping measurements, and other testing data on extracted cores. Additional operational information will be gathered, such as the annual traffic data and information on winter de-icing activities (i.e., type of deicing chemicals used and frequency of application during the evaluation period). These data will be compiled, descriptive statistics calculated, and comparisons drawn between the performance of test sections and control sections (typical State concrete mixtures). Based on the findings, any recommendations for data collection adjustments (i.e., type, frequency) will be communicated to the TAP. A 1st year performance summary report will be provided to the TAP for review and comment. A summary of key findings will be presented to the TAP and/or at NRRA Research Pays Off webinar sessions.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned related to the first year of performance of the test sections
  • Date due: February 29, 2023

Task 5: 2nd Year Performance Update

The second-year performance data collected by State will be obtained and entered in the project database and the work will mirror that described in Task 4. Comparisons and findings will include data from the first and second years of performance monitoring.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned related to the second year of performance of the test sections
  • Date due: February 28, 2023

Task 6: 3rd Year Performance Update

The third-year year performance data collected by State will be obtained and entered in the project database and the work will mirror that described in Task 4. Comparisons and findings will include data from the first, second, and third years of performance monitoring.

Under this task, two members of the project team (Mr. Prashant Ram and Mr. Kurt Smith) will travel to the MnROAD facility for a 1- to 2 -day visit in the summer/fall 2025 to document the condition of the test sections after 3 years of service. The exact dates for the site visit will be decided later in conjunction with the TAP.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned related to the third year of performance of the test sections
  • Date due: February 28, 2026

Task 7: Sustainability and Resiliency Comparison of Materials in this Study

The primary goal of this task is to compile the environmental data available on each material being evaluated in this study and perform a comparative analysis. A preliminary assessment of the environmental impacts of each mixture used in the construction of the test cells at the MnROAD facility will be conducted under a separate contract. The environmental impacts of conventional concrete paving materials (such as portland cement, portland limestone cement, fly ash, etc.) are available from existing material databases from publicly available sources; however, to document the environmental data on specialty materials, the project team will have to rely on data from the material suppliers. One potential data source could be EPDs or other environmental data that are published by the material producers. The environmental impact assessment is expected to cover the material acquisition to the production phase for each material based on the data provided by the material suppliers. The analysis will focus on the reductions in environmental impacts (based on impact indicators such as global warming potential and ozone layer depletion potential, with the final set of selected indicators based on guidance from TAP) that can be realized through the use of alternative cementitious materials over conventional paving concrete. The evaluation of the resiliency of a concrete mixture is incomplete without the assessment of the impacts on the entire pavement system (paving materials, foundation materials, geometrics, etc.). However, specific concrete properties, such as reduced shrinkage, reduced permeability, reduction in oxychloride formation potential when exposed to deicing salts, and effective freeze-thaw resistance, may be considered as surrogate indicators of improved resiliency. A comparative analysis of these properties for concrete containing alternative cementitious binders and conventional paving concrete will be performed based on the information available from the ongoing study.

  • Deliverable: A technical memo summarizing the information learned related to comparisons of sustainability and resiliency for the materials in this study
  • Date due: April 30, 2026

Task 8: Final Technical Review and Production of Draft Final Report and Tech Brief

The research team will prepare a draft final research report and technical brief document (to aid in implementation) that provides a project overview, data, findings, and conclusions. At this time, the report is envisioned to include the following sections:

  1. Chapter 1. Introduction, Purpose, and Scope
  2. Chapter 2. MnROAD Test Section Characteristics and Layout
  3. Chapter 3. Construction Test Results Summary
  4. Chapter 4. Performance Comparison and Findings
  5. Chapter 5. Constructability Evaluation
  6. Chapter 6. Sustainability and Resiliency Assessment
  7. Chapter 7. Findings and Conclusions
  8. Appendices: Literature Review Summary, Project Data Summaries, EPD data, Material Specifications, etc.

After the draft report is submitted, a TAP meeting will be scheduled to review the contents of the report. Under this task, once the draft final report is submitted, one member of the project team (Mr. Prashant Ram) will attend one annual NRRA meeting in-person to provide an update on the project.

  • Deliverable: A draft final report and technical brief summarizing the information learned in this study
  • Date due: November 30, 2026

Task 9: Editorial Review and Publication of Final Report and Tech Brief

During this task, the Principal Investigator (PI) will work directly with State’s contract editors to address any editorial comments and finalize the document or product in a timely manner. The contract editors will ensure the product meets State’s publication standards and accessibility guidelines Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 compliant).

  • Deliverable: Final published report and technical brief summarizing the information learned in this study
  • Date due: March 31, 2027

Project team

Email the Project Team
Principal Investigator(s): Prashant Ram, Applied Pavement, pram@appliedpavement.com
Co-PI: Kurt Smith, Applied Pavement, ksmith@appliedpavement.com
Technical Liaison: Tom Burnham, MnDOT, tom.burnham@state.mn.us
Project Technical Advisory Panel (TAP): Contact us to join this TAP

  • Tom Burnham, MnDOT (TL)
  • Mark Finnell, WisDOT
  • Dan Gancarz, Illinois Tollway
  • Alf Gardiner, Braun Intertec
  • Lieska Halsey, Nebraska DOT
  • Rita Lederle, University of St. Thomas
  • Somayeh Nassiri, Washington State University
  • Xijun Shi, Texas State University
  • Jake Sumeraj, Illinois Tollway
  • Anthony Torres, Texas State University
  • Brett Trautman, Missouri DOT

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