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What Does a Pavement Engineer Do?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A pavement engineer is directly responsible for the design and installation of various types of pavement and he or she works closely with a team of senior engineers. This field generally falls under civil engineering, and many people in this profession have at least a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in addition to years of experience in the field. A pavement engineer is often employed by governmental agencies to design highways, airways, and other large pavement layouts. In addition to the designing and constructing of paved pathways, this position is responsible for researching, budgeting, pavement management, and maintenance.

Research is a key element of this profession and is usually performed extensively before implementing designs. The pavement engineer must thoroughly research materials behavior, pavement behavior, and pavement surface characteristics. Results from research may significantly improve roadway safety because these factors are directly correlated with the stability of the road. Some important characteristics of the road usually include friction, texture, noise, and smoothness. Training and education in the field prepare the pavement engineer to consider all factors before designing any type of thoroughfare.

Budgeting is also an important aspect of this profession because he or she will need to design a pavement structure that is cost effective and within the company's budget. This duty also requires research and may call for various business management skills. He or she will need to work closely with builders and material vendors to ensure that the project can be included in the proposed budget.

Pavement management is usually a post-design task that ensures that the thoroughfare remains in working order. A large problem with many types of pavement are cracks, and over time there are several types of distress that payment undergoes including alligator cracks, weathering, and distortion. Alligator cracks are interconnected cracks generally caused by high traffic volumes and can gradually decrease the stability of the road. Weathering is the distortion of pavement due to climate and weather conditions that cause the materials of the pavement to wear away and become weak. Distortion is usually when the pavement begins to sag and this directly effects the quality of the thoroughfare.

Problems with pavement may contribute to safety problems and usually need to be addressed periodically by a pavement engineer. He or she generally perform various tests on the pavement to determine the severity of the distress and then applies the appropriate repairs. There are many duties that a pavement engineer may perform including risk assessment, providing suggestions for improvement based on testing, and monitoring all construction details.

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