How Low-Carbon Concrete Made I-80 in Utah More Sustainable

25 October 2022Architecture and Engineering, Civil 3D, Construction, Digital Transformation, SustainabilityInfrastructure, innovation



The original asphalt pavement of Interstate 80 through Utah was placed over 60 years ago. Since then, as described by “I Build America,” it was milled and repaved multiple times. Because a 7.5-mile section of I-80 through Silver Creek Canyon is subject to freeze-thaw action as well as heavy truck traffic, rutting and cracking were persistent. The Utah Department of Transportation decided that it should be rebuilt with a more durable, high-performance pavement using concrete.

The project, part of Utah’s “Renovate I-80” campaign, was designed as a 12-inch concrete overlay on top of a 4-inch foundation of reclaimed asphalt stabilized with cement.

Red sandstone spires in Utah

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Geneva Rock Products of Utah was chosen for the I-80 project, which was characterized in news releases as one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the State of Utah. The company partnered with Holcim US, a leading cement producer. Since Geneva Rock Products is undertaking efforts to be a more sustainable company, it was particularly interested in including the Holcim OneCem® cement product for the project. On the website describing OneCem, the company explains it is “produced with less emitted carbon dioxide than ordinary Portland cement,” giving projects a smaller carbon footprint.

As an interesting aside, the project also benefitted from a 10-15% time savings by using a wireless concrete paving system that ran the paver with robotics. On it was explained that 3D models were created for the pavement design. With the models loaded onto the paver’s computer, it could control vertical and horizontal alignment of the machine. This enabled more precise shaping, smoother curves and greater accuracy in concrete thickness. 

The project was fast-tracked by UDOT because I-80 through Utah has been described as one of the most critical routes to goods and services in the intermountain west. At the time of the project, it was estimated that 15,000 vehicles traveled through Silver Creek Canyon every day.

In the first phase, in the fall of 2014, the eastbound lanes were paved using traditional cement in the concrete mix. Westbound lanes were paved the following spring using a concrete mixture including OneCem. According to the Holcim website, by incorporating fly ash in OneCem, the carbon footprint of the westbound lanes was lowered by as much as 35% from traditional concrete paving mixes.

Holcim explains the low-carbon concrete has equivalent performance to ordinary Portland cement in terms of concrete workability, set time, durability, and strength development. As recorded in a video by Lafarge|Holcim, Cody Preston, Geneva Rock Products Concrete Paving Area Manager, said, “Our concrete finishers and paving operators didn’t know that we had even changed cement.” Preston added that the low-carbon concrete used for the westbound lanes performed similar to and has proved to be just as durable as traditional concrete.

Preston said the company will continue to use low-carbon concrete because it is a step toward lowering the company’s carbon footprint with no noticeable difference.

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