Raise your hand if you’ve driven through the plethora of construction zones and wondered “WHAT A MESS!” The concrete rubble left behind after the various demolition operations are piled HIGH along the staging areas of both I-43 and I-41. Well what do they do with all this?
I wanted to find out more so I decided to ask the big guns. The DOT’s SE Wisconsin Construction Chief Ryan Luck gave me the low-down.
Luck explains, “When we demolish bridges, we recycle not only the old steel that’s in those bridge, but also the concrete as well.”
The process is called Cold In-Place Recycling, or CIPR. In this process, the contractor takes the material and hauls it to a crusher where it is processed and reconstituted into roadway gravel. They also recycle the steel rebar that reinforces the concrete. All this can have a big impact on the bottom line.
The state stands to save a ton of money doing this, with one WIS DOT report mentioning that this process saved the state more than $14 million during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, just as an example. For the 2021 fiscal year, the DOT estimates to have saved $35.1 million in recycled materials used in pavement and bridge construction.
And you may wonder, is reusing this stuff safe? A 2019 study shows that with just a few checks they already have in place, the material like the recycled gravel they end up using works just like any other material they may get from quarries and other providers.
So the next time you drive past a pile of concrete and steel rubble in a construction zone, just know, they’ve got a plan for that impressive mountain, and it’s eventually going to save us all some money.