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[Mp4] How modern highways are built

From the Autobahn in Germany to the sprawling US federal highway system, highways are some of the most important pieces of transportation infrastructure around the world. We often take them for granted but have you ever considered what sort of engineering goes into the construction of highways? Let’s take a closer look.

 

The construction of any highway begins with the planning phase. Before laying the foundation, engineers and officials spend a lot of time determining the best route for traffic to flow through cities and across regions. Since highways last for so long, they don’t just consider the transportation problems of today but also think and plan out many decades into the future.

 

After a plan for the highway is made, the next step is handing off the concept to a team of surveyors, architects and engineers to complete the initial design. Surveying teams use GPS-based scanning tools to carefully map out the land where a highway will be built. The teams collect a massive amount of data including soil properties, drainage capabilities, future development potential, environmental effects and even a complex digital point cloud that perfectly models the terrain. Once the data is collected, the design is finalized over what is usually a process of many years.

 

The next step is construction. Since most highway systems are built by governments, choosing a company or companies to undertake the construction is usually done through a bidding process where different companies compete to offer the best price, quality, speed and other factors.

 

Like buildings and other structures, highways will need to hold a significant amount of weight throughout their lives, which is why they need a very strong foundation. The phases of the construction process for highways usually looks like this:

 

  1. Build up embankments and cut down hills to flatten out the terrain where the highway will be built.

 

2. Then bulldozers and other heavy equipment will grade the soil and dirt, perfectly leveling out and smoothing the terrain together to create a subgrade.

 

3. Depending on the highway, engineers will often lay down different layers of soil. This soil is then heavily compacted, to build up a strong sub-base grade to lay the roadway on top of.

 

4.While compacting soil down to its maximum density, engineers will lay down road drainage and storm sewer systems to ensure that the highways don’t flood.

 

After these preparatory and foundation laying steps are completed, the paving process can be started. There are many different paving options for roadways but the main two highway choices are asphalt or a type of concrete.

 

Asphalt uses a chemical compound known as bitumin, a byproduct of petroleum to essentially glue together crossed rock. This mixture is heated, laid and then compacted to make the roadway surface.

 

Concrete utilizes cement, water and an aggregate like sand or rock. Concrete roadways are built by pouring the concrete into forms used to carefully shape and smooth the road surface.

 

Asphalt is less durable compared to concrete but it’s also far cheaper and faster to lay, especially for long stretches of road.

 

Concrete, on the other hand, is highly durable but it’s very expensive and time-consuming to use for constructing roadways.

 

The choice will depend partly on cost considerations, environmental conditions and what the roadway will be used for.

 

After the paving process is completed, the roadway will undergo a period of testing. Engineers use seismology equipment to measure vibrations and fluctuations in the road surface. Engineers will also do load testing on the roadway, making sure that the highway can support the necessary amount of weight.

 

Finally, engineers have to check that the highway can support high water flow rates through its drainage system, to help prevent accidents due to inclement weather.

 

After all of these construction and certification steps, the roadway can be opened up to the public for use.

 

The process of constructing a highway usually takes many years. For example, plans for the Pan American highway, which is made up of a series of interconnected roadways, stretching across Canada, the United States and 12 nations in South America began as far back as 1923. Construction on the first part of the roadway began in the 1940s. Today after almost 100 years of work, the road from the tip of North America to the tip of South America is still incomplete.

 

The United States really loves highways, too because not only does the US have the longest road network in the world but it is also home to the widest highway in the world. The Katy freeway in texas spans a monstrous 26 lanes across at its widest point, and more than 219,000 vehicles drive across it every day.

 

Highways are marvels of engineering indeed but they often go unremarked. Hopefully now as you’re traveling across the highways of the world, you’ll appreciate the immense amount of engineering and planning that goes into them.

 

Source: Interesting Engineering

WORD BANK:

sprawling /ˈsprɔː.lɪŋ/ (adj): rộng lớn

federal /ˈfed.ər.əl/ [C1] (adj): thuộc về liên bang

take sth for granted [B2] (v): coi cái gì là điều hiển nhiên, không coi trọng cái gì

official /əˈfɪʃ.əl/ [C2] (n): quan chức

determine sth /dɪˈtɜː.mɪn/ [C1] (v): xác định, quyết định cái gì

concept /ˈkɒn.sept/ [B2] (n): ý tưởng

surveyor /səˈveɪ.ər/ (n): nhà khảo sát

initial /ɪˈnɪʃ.əl/ [B2] (adj): ban đầu

property /ˈprɒp.ə.ti/ (n): đặc tính

drainage /ˈdreɪ.nɪdʒ/ (n): thoát nước

terrain /təˈreɪn/ (n): địa hình

undertake /ˌʌn.dəˈteɪk/ [C1] (v – formal): đảm nhận

bid /bɪd/ [C2] (v): đấu thầu

embankment /ɪmˈbæŋk.mənt/ (n): bờ kè

bulldozer /ˈbʊlˌdəʊ.zər/ (n): máy ủi

level out (v): san bằng

smooth /smuːð/ (v): làm phẳng, làm mịn

subgrade (n): nền đất

compact /kəmˈpækt/ (v): nén

density /ˈden.sɪ.ti/ [C1] (n): mật độ

storm sewer /ˈstɔːm ˌsʊər/ (n): đường ống thoát nước mưa

pave /peɪv/ (v): lát đường

asphalt /ˈæs.fɔːlt/ (n): nhựa đường

compound /ˈkɒm.paʊnd/ (n): hỗn hợp

byproduct /ˈbɑɪˌprɑ.dʌkt/ (n): sản phẩm phụ

aggregate /ˈæɡ.rɪ.ɡət/ (n): cốt liệu

durable /ˈdʒʊə.rə.bəl/ (n): bền

seismology /saɪzˈmɒl.ə.dʒi/ (n): địa chấn

vibration /vɑɪˈbreɪ·ʃən/ (n): rung chấn

flow rate (n): tốc độ dòng chảy

inclement /ɪnˈklem.ənt/ (adj): khắc nghiệt

tip /tɪp/ (n): mũi, điểm cực

monstrous /ˈmɒn.strəs/ (adj): khổng lồ

marvel of engineering /ˈmɑː.vəl əv ˌen.dʒɪˈnɪə.rɪŋ/ (n): tuyệt tác kỹ thuật

indeed /ɪnˈdiːd/ [B1] (adv): thực sự

unremarked /ˌʌnrɪˈmɑːkt/ (adj): không được chú ý tới

appreciate /əˈpriː.ʃi.eɪt/ [B2] (v): đánh giá cao


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