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Where We Go From Here

Outgoing Ontario Hot Mix Producers Association CEO reflects on 15 years in office.


August 10, 2012
By Mike O’Connor

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It is a pleasure to write this Last Word column for Aggregates &
Roadbuilding magazine as I prepare to retire from the Ontario Hot Mix
Producers Association (OHMPA) after 15 years of service.

It is a pleasure to write this Last Word column for Aggregates & Roadbuilding magazine as I prepare to retire from the Ontario Hot Mix Producers Association (OHMPA) after 15 years of service. Over the years the hot mix asphalt industry’s journey has withstood its share of challenges, but has been paved with continual innovations that have led to vast improvements in the quality of our roads.

When I became CEO of OHMPA in 1997, we began to introduce Performance Grade Asphalt Cement, the first step in the development of Superpave. Superpave optimizes the asphalt mixture’s resistance to rutting, fatigue and low temperature cracking. Now, everything designed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is done using Superpave specifications and I’ve seen rutting in asphalt pavements virtually disappear. Given the success of this paving method, it is difficult to understand why some jurisdictions are still dragging their feet to adopt Superpave.

Another change in the industry that has led to better quality roads has been MTO’s introduction of End Result Specifications (ERS), which hold contractors to a higher standard of accountability.  Before ERS, cookie-cutter specifications were given to contractors that told them how to do the work, but did not focus on the finished product. With ERS, the contractor decides how the work gets done; however, it is the end result of that work that is judged. Since the implementation of ERS, I’ve seen contractors turn their entire business around to focus on quality. Warranty contracts have also helped to improve the quality of pavements. Under warranty contracts, contractors are responsible for designing, building and maintaining the road for the duration of the warranty. Both ERS and warranty contracts have greatly benefited the quality of hot-mix asphalt pavements. 

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I’ve also been happy to see the adoption of paving solutions such as perpetual pavement that further demonstrate the durability of asphalt. I’m always reminded when I drive on Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway that it was designed as a perpetual pavement over 55 years ago, and is still going strong, withstanding some of the heaviest traffic in Ontario. The DVP is the first and only pavement outside of the United States to win the coveted Perpetual Pavement Award from the Asphalt Pavement Alliance.

Our achievements over the years, however, have not been accomplished in a vacuum. Industry associations such as the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association, the Toronto Area Road Builders Association and the Ontario Road Builders Association have provided a great deal of support for industry issues. Through our co-operative efforts we have created Aggregate Recycling Ontario to promote aggregate recycling and have established the Ontario Civil Construction Careers Institute, aimed at encouraging young people to consider the construction industry as a career choice.

MTO has been a strategic partner and industry leader in OHMPA’s dedication to achieving excellence in asphalt pavements. In an effort for Ontario to have the greenest roads in North America, MTO allows for up to 20% reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) in surface courses and up to 40% in binder courses. However, we need to continue to push for the acceptance of RAP in municipal sectors. Currently, many municipalities do not allow RAP in hot-mix designs, or allow for only miniscule amounts. In this day and age when cost savings and environmental priorities are high, municipalities should reconsider their approach to allow for more RAP.

Looking forward, I see that the hot-mix asphalt industry will continue to have a lot of competition. However, despite some of the exaggerated claims that come from the ridged concrete paving industry, I don’t see a day when asphalt doesn’t have the lion’s share of the pavement market. There are just too many things we do right and we keep improving upon in construction methods, new designs and the equipment we use. And a little competition never hurts us; it only helps to spur us on to evolve with new innovations.  After all, we are the flexible pavement that easily embraces and adapts to change – a sign of a true leader, which is one characteristic about the asphalt paving industry that I’m certain will not change. n


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