Your recycle bin or junk drawer could contain the answer to fixing Iowa's most decrepit roads.

An Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) field technician says for the last 6 years, his department has been experimenting with a new way to keep the state's roads safer and more durable.

Until the massive undertaking of fixing the numerous decaying roads in Iowa can be completed, what can they do as a safe and temporary "band-aid"? How about recycled plastic? Shane Fetters with the Iowa DOT says they were approached in 2016 about the possibility of using NVI NewRoad Bead Technology.  The plastic mixture contains polystyrene beads and they already started trying it 5 years ago in Des Moines, combined with 500 tons of asphalt on parts of Northeast 22nd Street.

Early observations and comparisons of the parts of the road with the technology and without are apparently showing that the NewRoad Bead Technology makes a significant improvement. Fetters is encouraged, according to WeAreIowa, saying "it's got higher stability and is stronger. It has less rutting, less cracking than the other asphalt used."

Of course, the President of the company rolling out the technology has nothing but good things to say about it. Doug Clement is the head of Construction Material Testing and says "it’s material that is supposed to increase the life of the pavement, and based on our initial study before recommending it, makes asphalt more durable."

So what's in it for us? Fetters says the DOT will use the technology in the future, cutting out parts of the road with the plastic mixture and without it to keep comparing. The results will determine if this becomes a widespread and long-term alternative to constantly asking taxpayers for the money and patience for more costly repairs.

It's fascinating stuff that could change the game in fixing longstanding issues with Iowa's roadways.

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