A Traveler’s Guide to Grinding and Grooving

Cruisin’ down the highway in a psychedelically-painted vehicleVW bus may have been groovy in the 60’s and early 70’s, but the road sure wasn’t.

In the era of bell bottoms, “love-ins,” and good vibrations, when a stretch of pavement deteriorated, the only readily-available solution was to cover the concrete with two to three inches of asphalt overlay. While structurally sound, it made for a pretty rough ride.

As the 70’s transitioned into the 80’s, taxpayers started demanding smoother roads. In response, the highway industry started tightening specifications on the rideability of pavement. During this time, profile (bump) grinding became a commonly-used technique to remove bumps and smooth out concrete and asphalt highways.

By the 1990s, road repair technology and equipment had improved and diamond grinding quickly became the preferred method for restoring concrete highways across America.

Diamond grinding is a process in which closely spaced diamond blades are used to remove surface imperfections, such as faults, warp and curl, to restore the surface to a smooth, level pavement and improve ride quality.Penhall diamond concrete grinding trucks on the highway diamond concrete grinding blades

Concurrently, ensuring a safer driving experience became a priority for the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). As such, the FHA mandated that every state had to put transverse grooves on their highways. While transverse grooves were effective in getting the water off the concrete and preventing hydroplaning, they made the drive very noisy.

To find a better solution, California decided to groove longitudinally instead of transversely. While this went against the FHA’s mandate, it turned out that longitudinal grooving not only resulted in quieter pavement, it also improved the frictional characteristics of the roadway (making it safer).Longitudinal groovingToday (2014), more than 60 percent of states diamond grind to make their highways smoother, and longitudinally diamond groove to ensure a safer and quieter driving experience.

Modern day grinding and grooving processes accomplish the three things highway departments and government agencies want most:

  1. Improve frictional characteristics (most important because it makes the roadway safer).
  2. Smoothness.
  3. Noise reduction.

But because transportation agencies tend to be tight on time and capital, it’s important for a diamond grinding and grooving service provider to demonstrate the following:

  • References from other states that the company has worked for. This information can be helpful in evaluating the grinding and grooving provider’s experience and track record.
  • Large fleet of equipment. A company with a large fleet of diamond grinding and grooving equipment (as opposed to one or two machines) will help ensure that the project will get done reliably with no down time.
  • Examples of work done. Reputable companies should be able to readily provide multiple examples of diamond grinding and grooving projects they’ve completed.
  • Decades of experience. The approach to repairing, preserving, and improving highways has changed significantly over the past 50 years. A company that has been in the business for decades (as opposed to a handful of years) will be able to offer more value in terms of experience and expertise.

Stay groovy and safe travels!

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