What are the aggregates found on Alberta roads?

The province of Alberta, Canada, is home to a vast network of roads, connecting urban centers, rural communities, and resource-rich areas. The construction and maintenance of these roads are heavily reliant on a crucial yet often underappreciated resource: aggregates. These natural materials, including sand, gravel, and stone, play a pivotal role in the development and integrity of Alberta’s road infrastructure. In this article, we delve into the world of road aggregates, examining their sources and applications.

The Importance of Aggregates

Aggregates are the fundamental building blocks of road construction. They provide the necessary strength, durability, and stability to create road surfaces capable of withstanding the test of time and the weight of heavy vehicles. The versatility of aggregates, which include sand, gravel, and stone, allows them to be used in various aspects of road construction, from base materials to surface layers.

What Are Aggregates Used For in Alberta?

Aggregates are fundamental construction materials that find application in various domains, including but not limited to:

  • Road Construction: Aggregates serve as the base for constructing durable road surfaces. They are crucial in creating strong road foundations, subbases, and surface layers. The choice of aggregates influences road profile designs, such as the creation of limestone road profile structures and layers in road construction to support a variety of vehicles.
  • Building and Construction: Aggregates are essential components in the construction of buildings and other structures. They are used in concrete aggregates, providing the necessary strength, while also serving as foundational materials for non-residential buildings, institutional buildings, and industrial purposes.
  • Drainage Applications: Aggregates are employed for drainage applications, helping manage storm water and prevent flooding or erosion in construction projects. Drainage systems often use aggregates to facilitate the flow of water.
  • Oil Sands and Utility Projects: Aggregates are integral in oil sands projects and utility projects, where they are used for infrastructure development, ensuring the integrity and sustainability of these vital operations.

Aggregate Deposits in Alberta

Alberta is blessed with abundant aggregate resources, with a plethora of gravel pits, stone quarries, and sand deposits. These resources are essential for the construction and maintenance of the province’s vast road network. The geological diversity of the region provides access to a wide range of aggregate materials, each suited for specific applications.

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness in road construction. This has led to the use of recycled materials, including recycled aggregates, in road projects. The inclusion of recycled materials not only reduces the demand for virgin aggregates but also minimizes waste and disposal costs.

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Types of Aggregates Used In Alberta

Alberta is known for utilizing its natural resources to create a supply of materials for their infrastructure. Below we have highlighted some of Alberta’s most used aggregates:

  • Natural Sand: Natural sand is a commonly used aggregate in Alberta for its versatility and suitability in various construction applications.
  • Crushed Stone: Crushed stone aggregates are essential for creating strong road surfaces and are widely used in road construction.
  • Pea Gravel: Pea gravel is a smaller aggregate often employed for specific applications such as decorative finishes or drainage projects.
  • Limestone: Limestone aggregates are used extensively in road construction due to their durability, especially in creating road profile structures.
  • 20mm/40mm Road Crush: This specific aggregate size is chosen to balance durability and ride quality in road construction.
  • Armour Stone: Larger armor stones are used for protective structures and erosion control.
  • Recycled Glass Aggregate: Recycled glass aggregates are employed for sustainability in construction, reducing the demand for virgin materials.
  • Athabasca River Rock: Athabasca River rocks are sourced for various construction purposes, including creating strong road surfaces.
  • Concrete Rock: Concrete aggregate rocks are used as aggregates in the production of concrete, a vital component in construction projects.
  • Montana Rainbow Rock: Montana Rainbow Rock is a specialized decorative aggregate used for aesthetic purposes.
  • Rundle Rock: Rundle Rock is a popular aggregate choice for landscaping and construction, contributing to strong and attractive road surfaces.

Aggregate Applications and Specifications

Diverse Applications of Aggregates

Aggregates have an array of applications in road construction, including the creation of road bases, gravel roads, and the integrity of limestone roads. They are also used in the construction of various layers of road profiles, such as subbases and thinner road profiles.

Aggregate Material Specifications

To meet the specific requirements of different road projects, aggregates must adhere to material specifications. These specifications encompass size, quality, and other characteristics that guarantee the suitability of the aggregates for their intended purpose.

Kinds of Stone for Construction

The types of stone used in construction can vary widely, from larger armor stone used for protective structures to pea stone and quality stone bedrock deposits used for foundations and surface treatments. These stones offer a spectrum of durability and aesthetic choices for builders and architects.

Challenges and Innovations in Aggregate Utilization

Heavy Trucks and Their Impact

The use of heavy trucks in the transportation of aggregates is common in the industry. This poses challenges related to truck tire life, road safety, and environmental concerns. Innovations are needed to improve truck cycle times and overall performance while minimizing environmental impacts.

Efficiency in the Aggregate Industry

The Alberta Aggregate Registry Program aims to streamline the process of acquiring and managing aggregate resources, thus supporting the efficient development of quarries and the implementation of master site development plans.

Resistivity Surveys for Resource Management

Modern technology, including resistivity surveys, helps in the assessment and management of aggregate resources. This not only aids in the sustainable extraction of aggregates but also ensures that these resources do not interfere with vital infrastructure such as drinking water pipes and stormwater management.

The Effect of Aggregates on Cars

  • Tire Wear: The jagged edges of road aggregates, including rock and composite materials, can accelerate tire wear, increasing maintenance costs and reducing the lifespan of tires.
  • Ride Comfort: Rough road surfaces with uneven aggregates like pea gravel or geosynthetic aggregates can lead to a less comfortable ride for passengers, affecting the driving experience and vehicle components.
  • Vehicle Vibration: Inflexible subbases, often composed of aggregates, can cause increased vehicle vibrations, potentially leading to discomfort and additional stress on the vehicle’s suspension system.
  • Damage to Body and Paint: Vehicles driving on roads with loose or sharp aggregates may experience paint chipping and damage to the vehicle’s body due to flying stones and debris kicked up by other vehicles.
  • Increased Maintenance: Roads with abrasive aggregates, especially in limestone haul roads, can lead to increased vehicle maintenance costs, requiring more frequent repairs and replacements of vehicle components.

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How To Limit Aggregate Damage on Vehicles

Aggregate damage on vehicles can result from driving on rough or abrasive road surfaces. To mitigate such damage, follow these steps:

  • Protective Coating: Applying a paint protection film will ensure that debris from asphalt and other road aggregates doesn’t scratch or damage the body of your vehicle.
  • Tire Maintenance: Regularly check and maintain your tires, including proper inflation and alignment, to ensure they are in optimal condition to withstand rough road surfaces.
  • Vehicle Suspension: Ensure your vehicle’s suspension system is in good working order. Well-maintained shocks and struts can help absorb the impact of rough roads.
  • Safe Driving Practices: Drive at appropriate speeds for the road conditions. Slower speeds on rough or gravel roads can reduce the risk of stone and debris damage to your vehicle.
  • Protection Accessories: Invest in protective accessories like mud flaps and rock guards to shield your vehicle’s body and paint from flying stones and debris.
  • Select Routes Wisely: When possible, choose alternative routes with smoother road surfaces to limit aggregate exposure and potential damage.
  • Regular Maintenance: Perform regular vehicle maintenance, including inspections for paint chips and minor body damage, which, if addressed promptly, can prevent further deterioration.

Invest in Paint Protection Film

If you are worried about the damage aggregates can do to your vehicle in Alberta or anywhere else in Canada, applying paint protective film is the number one way to protect your car or truck. Protex Canada offers a variety of paint protection products designed to defend your car against various factors, including scrates from road aggregates, extreme weather conditions and more. 

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