Before we can answer the question, is tarmacadam still used today? We must first understand how tarmacadam is used, and what it is used for. Simply put, the substance known as tarmacadam is used to create roads.
From the early 1900’s, roads all over the world were made of tarmacadam. This is why you may hear the term tarmac used to describe large flat paved areas such as airport runways. People in some areas of the United States still use the term macadam when talking about streets or roads.
In order to build roads out of tarmacadam, you begin with a layer of large broken rocks or concrete. On top of this layers of smaller and smaller material is laid and run over with a roller in order to pack the material tightly and depending on the material, even create a new material.
Once these layers are tight a layer of tar is spread on top and once again the roller is used to push the tar into any cracks that may be left in the layers of rocky material. This process creates a very good surface for cars and other vehicles.
A benefit of using tarmacadam is that it is easy to repair. The top layer is simply scraped off leaving behind a grooved surface, then a new layer of tar is applied and a roller once again smoothes the surface. This is not only a simple process but does not take as long as repairs on roads made of other materials.
Tarmacadam was commonly used until the invention of asphalt, as the main problem with tarmacadam is that it is not a durable as asphalt. As the number of cars has increased tarmacadam has showed to be less durable than other surfaces.
Besides its durability, asphalt does have some problems that tarmacadam does not have, the most important one being that it is a petroleum based product, meaning that the process used to create asphalt is not good for the environment. Another problem with asphalt is that it must be removed and then repaved making it difficult to repair.
In developing countries tarmacadam is still widely used and there are even some roads on the west coast of the United States still made of tarmacadam. Looking at things from an environmental stand point tarmacadam may be one way for states to reduce their ecological footprint.
The use of tarmacadam may be a way of looking at the past in order to move towards the future and this old way of making roads may even be a way for companies that make roads, to save money when constructing new roads.
The next time you are riding down the road, look at the surface. Is it made of tarmacadam? If it’s not you can begin to wonder why tarmacadam is not used more widely today.