Tires revolutionize paving
Civil engineer, tire store owner work together
Overhauling roads and properly disposing of old tires might seem like completely unrelated tasks, but one Monongalia County business uses a technique to accomplish both.
This is where civil engineer Sam Bonasso and Marion Zuccari, owner of Tireland, on the Mileground, come in. Bonasso and Zuccari are the co-owners of Mechanical Concrete, a company and road building method, with Tireland providing a crucial ingredient— old tires.
Zuccari said an application of the Mechanical Concrete method is simple: Take an old auto tire, remove the side walls with a special cutting machine, place them in rows where you want to build a road, fill the gaps with gravel and pave over them.
The tires form cylinders under the surface, which contains the crushed rock that the project is built upon. This containment prevents water and erosion from removing the substance and therefore leading to potholes and road slips.
Bonasso invented Mechanical Concrete while working for the state of West Virginia under Gov. Cecil Underwood in 1998. Bonasso said he was put in charge of a project to bury old tires to dispose of them, but found that whole tires retained water and left soft spots in the road.
Bonasso later discovered that simply removing the tires’ side walls transformed them into cylinders that kept water out when filled and made for sturdy subsurface road material.
“The tires are five times stronger than they need to be,” he said. “This creates a virtually indestructible material.”
Bonasso said businesses and communities in West Virginia, Arizona, Texas, Ohio and California that applied Mechanical Concrete have slashed road maintenance costs by using it. This is because whenever cracks or potholes do form, only the surface needs to be re-paved.
“It’s amazing how well it works,” Westover Mayor Dave Johnson said. “I would recommend everyone to come have a look and see what we’ve done with it.”
Johnson said Mechanical Concrete was applied to Monongahela Avenue, a road that sees heavy truck traffic, three years ago, and the results speak for themselves. He said the town is considering applying Mechanical Concrete to problem areas on Pennsylvania and Riverview avenues. “When you don’t have to keep going out there, digging down to the base and paving it over, that’s where your savings come from.”
Zuccari said Mechanical Concrete improves drainage because the tires effectively channel liquid away from the road and stop it from being absorbed by the limestone.
To test this method, Tireland rebuilt the driveway to its shop using Mechanical Concrete and gravel, which resulted in water from melting snow draining away in a single, steady stream.
Johnson said this held true when the method was applied to a section of Westover City Park that suffered from poor drainage near the baseball field bleachers. Before Mechanical Concrete was used, people had to walk through almost constant mud to get to the bleachers.
“The best part is this is something we can do ourselves without having to hire an outside contractor,” Johnson said. “We just have to go up to Tireland to get the cylinders.”
Zuccari and Bonasso said Mechanical Concrete is an environmentally friendly process because it uses a plentiful resource that can be difficult to use or dispose of.
“We did research and found out there is one disposable tire for every human being in the United States,” Zuccari said. “About 60 percent of it is burned for fuel, which isn’t very green. More of them are ground into mulch for football fields and 30 percent they have no idea how to get rid of.”