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Kenton Co. is testing asphalt made from recycled tires as a longer-lasting road pavement

A pile of black tires
Adam Kring

Northern Kentucky is part of a statewide experiment testing out rubber-modified asphalt on county roads. Kenton is one of four counties to get a state grant for the project.

The modified asphalt uses recycled tires and seems to last up to 10 years longer than traditional paving methods. It also shows increased skid resistance and better noise reduction. Kenton County Engineer Nick Hendrix says it’s also more expensive.

“What they're looking for is enough data across the state to be able to compare and say, 'We've got a better lifecycle and therefore we've got reason to make this greater investment in this type of mix,' " Hendrix said.

The difference is actually the liquid binder added to the asphalt mix. Conventional asphalt uses an oil-based liquid binder, which is replaced with a crumb rubber mix for the alternative method.

Kenton County’s grant is $155,116 to pave Staffordsburg-Kenton Station Road with the rubber-modified asphalt. They’ll compare it to a nearby road recently paved the traditional way, to see how each method holds up over the next few years.

The grant money comes from the Kentucky Waste Tire Trust Fund, which gets $2 from every new tire sold in the Commonwealth.

Hendrix says the rubber-modified asphalt may not be more expensive for long.

“We've all seen fuel prices going up; as an oil-based product, asphalt binder will generally track up with fuel costs,” he said. “So as traditional asphalt binder gets more expensive, the cost of crumb rubber additive, we would think, would start to become considerably more competitive.”

Three other counties received grants for the project:

  • Christian County ($107,561 for Witty Lane)
  • LaRue County ($137,375 for Veirs Road)
  • Oldham County ($43,111 for Lock Lane)
Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.