On a steamy summer day, a crew spreads asphalt on a road that looks, to a casual observer, like a typical rural road in Alabama. It's really a test track run by the National Center for Asphalt Technology, or NCAT. The tests done on the 1.7-mile loop are an important step in the continuing journey to build better roads.
"We're working to determine the best combinations of materials and the ideal thicknesses of those materials in order to minimize the life-cycle costs and investments in pavements," said Raymond "Buzz" Powell, who manages the test track.
Critical to building better roads, is making better asphalt. It covers 97 percent of the roads in the United States, roads that by any account are in rough shape.