Life’s Essentials

By Clifford Ursich, P.E., President & Executive Director of Flexible Pavements of Ohio

The following article was published in the Summer 2020 edition of the Ohio Asphalt magazine and is presented here courtesy of Flexible Pavements of Ohio. There are several references to Ohio Department of Transportation specifications and mix classifications; however, the information and basic concepts are applicable across the United States.

There is nothing like a pandemic to bring into focus the essential things of life. Like using a microscope, we adjust the focus making it possible to see clearer until the image finally sharpens. Well, in a similar way, the outfall from the Wuhan CCP COVID-19 Virus pandemic certainly has helped our society to better understand what truly is essential in life. The run on toilet paper, however, is inexplicable to me. I guess these folks figure they better gather it all up before the hoarders do.

When we think of life’s essentials, mobility, and the systems by which it is provided, rises high on the list. I see more clearly the simple wisdom of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s mission statement: “Provide the safe and easy movement of people and goods from place-to-place.”

Consider the “essential” nature of roads. We take them “oh so” for granted, and funding roadway maintenance is often done begrudgingly. Were it not for the roads and the trucks that travel them, commerce would have come to a screeching halt during this pandemic. Never in my lifetime have I seen empty and sparsely stocked grocery shelves. Those are the kinds of images that come out of the Eastern Block. The fully stocked shelves and freezer cases we have come to expect in our local grocery stores testifies to the importance of roads for moving goods from “place-to-place.” They warrant being kept in good repair.

I am grateful for the people involved in keeping the roadway system up and running. These include agency and contractor personnel alike. It includes the asphalt plant and paving crews and all who support their forward progress; the supply chain of truckers hauling asphalt binder, aggregate and the completed mix. As well, there are the quality control (QC) technicians at the mixing plants and on the roadway, who test and inspect all aspects of quality to ensure they are within boundaries of the specifications. As you can see, there are a lot of folks behind the curtain pulling levers doing the “essential” tasks to ensure the roadways are being maintained.

“Essential Industry” Designation

I have been contemplating the designation “Essential Industry” as it relates to asphalt’s future viability. I do not take it for granted, and I hope you – as someone connected to the industry’s success too – will not take the designation for granted. What keeps an industry viable and essential is in becoming a necessary function to maintaining essential public services. How did the asphalt industry come to this designation? I submit its asphalt attributes: Speed of deployment and construction, maintenance simplicity, economy and smoothness; they have risen in the consumer’s mind so as to be deemed “essential” roadway attributes. Our ensuring these attributes in every paving project secures this important designation; and by virtue of such it preserves our opportunity to take home a paycheck – to purchase Life’s Essentials.

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