A 4-mile stretch of northbound U.S. 301 south of Baldwin has just become a test track, but it’s not for racing.
Instead, the pristine white concrete lanes are an important role in the Florida Department of Transportation’s effort to identify the most effective concrete pavement designs for use all over Florida.
The new concrete “test road” is not only a field laboratory that uses live traffic to test concrete pavement and base designs; it’s also the first of its kind in the southeastern United States.
“The concrete test road is a unique facility that incorporates cutting-edge technology to help further our understanding of pavement safety and performance,” FDOT State Materials Engineer Howie Mosely said. “The information we collect will help us optimize concrete pavement designs for safety, longevity and cost-effectiveness, ultimately delivering a better roadway experience to residents and visitors to our state.”
Opened for public use Tuesday, the road diverts drivers onto the 2-lane stretch just east of the existing U.S. 301 from Richard Mosely Road to County Road 218. Under the pavement, testing sensors have been strategically placed to let engineers monitor pavement conditions in real time as an average 2,000 cars and commercial trucks use it each day, according to state traffic counts.
The $17 million project included construction of 52 new concrete test sections, a stormwater pond and traffic signals, plus signs and guardrails. The first phase was done in early 2019 but not opened, FDOT said.
The new concrete test road is right next to the existing U.S. 301 northbound lanes. The test road’s design leaves the existing U.S. 301 northbound lanes intact, so FDOT can divert traffic off the test road when needed to check the test sections. Leaving the existing northbound lanes intact also means new test sections can be built without interruption to U.S. 301.