UAF researchers work on way to ease road-building costs in rural Alaska

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, June 27, 2010:

A possible remedy to rural Alaska’s enormous road construction costs might be sitting in a grimy plastic bin at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Billy Connor sifted through the bin’s contents with his hand, digging through material that looks like it came from a badly abused sandbox. There was lots of silt and sand, some thin plastic fibers and a sticky fluid that smelled like latex paint.

Connor, the director of the Alaska University Transportation Center, thinks this messy combination holds promise as a rural road of the future. It’s roughly three times stronger than silt alone and able to withstand pressures of about 175 pounds per square inch in laboratory tests. It also appears to be resistant to the freeze-thaw cycles that cause roads to buckle in permafrost-laden areas.

“We think we can cut the construction costs at least in half, maybe even more,” Connor said.