An 800-metre stretch of Portage Avenue will be resurfaced with rubberized asphalt, a mixture of ordinary petroleum-based road cover and the crumbled-up remains of used car tires, a green combo that's already covered hundreds of kilometres of highways in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
For more than a year, the city's public works department has been hoping to deploy a test plot of rubberized asphalt, which costs 20 to 30 per cent more than regular asphalt, but may be less prone to cracking and rutting over time.
Proponents of the used-tire and asphalt mix say it sheds ice more easily than regular asphalt and doesn't fade as quickly, which means road markings are more easily seen by motorists.
The remains of 800 to 900 rubber tires will be mixed into asphalt that will cover three eastbound lanes and one turning lane of Portage Avenue between Unicity Mall and Cavalier Drive this month, said Lester Deane, the city transportation engineer in charge of the pilot project.
The covering will be monitored for seven years to see if it performs better than regular asphalt. If so, more city roads and possibly provincial highways will be resurfaced with rubberized asphalt.
In Alberta, transportation engineers have found rubberized asphalt lasts two to four years longer than regular asphalt. It may also be quieter than regular asphalt, a quality that could reduce construction costs because berms alongside highways and freeways may not have to be built as high.
Winnipeg is being careful about deploying the mixture because the process used to combine rubber crumbs with asphalt in Alberta cannot be replicated here. The specialized piece of machinery required to mix the two components does not exist in Manitoba, forcing contractors to combine two-millimetre rubber crumbs with asphalt on site, Deane said.
If the pilot project is successful, tonnes of tires could be diverted from Manitoba landfills every year, said Keith Harris, sales director for Winnipeg's Reliable Tire Recycling.