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Cost of Sheet Asphalt Pavements

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COST OF SHEET ASPHALT PAVEMENTS. Any general statement of the cost of any engineering construction can be only approximately true in in any particular case, owing to variations in local conditions, the prices of material and labor, etc.; and any accurate statement concerning the cost of asphalt pavements is rendered still more difficult by the existence of artificial conditions which control prices, and also by the fact that the public has little or no reliable information as to the actual cost of laying asphalt pavements. During the early history of the asphalt paving indus try, a single company imported and in its own name constructed nearly all the asphalt pavements laid in this country, using exclu sively asphalt from the island of Trinidad. Later this company obtained an almost complete monopoly of this asphalt. It is claimed, apparently with justification, that this company then or ganized a number of subsidiary companies, and that for a number of years thereafter there was practically no competition in the asphalt paving business, except in name. Later the discovery of other sources of supply developed competition; but before many of the competing companies had gained commercial experience and technical knowledge to enable them to compete upon an equal footing with the parent company and its auxiliaries, a new com bination, or "trust," was formed. Consequently during but little, if any, of the history of the asphalt paving industry in this country has the unfettered law of supply and demand acted to establish prices.

Another reason why current prices for asphalt pavements are less instructive than those for other forms is that it is customary to include in the contract price of asphalt pavement the maintenance for a term of years, varying from 5 to 15; while maintenance is usually not so included with other forms of pavements. The pro portion of the original contract price required for maintenance will vary with the local circumstances, particularly with the climate, the amount and the nature of the traffic, the width of the street, and the presence or absence of street-car tracks.

Cost of Asphalt.

The real value of asphalt for paving purposes depends upon the per cent of contained bitumen soluble in carbon bisulphide; and consequently when a price of asphalt is given a statement should also be made of the per cent of soluble bitumen present. In the days of freest competition, the price of

Trinidad asphalt in the cities on the Atlantic coast of the United States governed the price of all asphalts for that part of the country east of the Rocky Mountains.

The estimated cost of Trinidad asphalt in New York City is as follows: * The lowest market quotations for refined Trinidad asphalt which contains about 53 per cent of bitumen soluble in carbon bisulphide (Table 40, page 393), of New York City have been $30 to $35 for 1,880 pounds net, or about $35 to $42 per long ton net. It is claimed * that the selling price in European sea ports for a number of years past has been about as follows: crude $10.34, refined $17.54, per long ton, net. It is also claimed t that the above estimates are corroborated by the prospectus issued by the London Company and verified by the certificate of Chartered Accountants. The difference in price between the two sides of the Atlantic is probably due to the fact that in Europe there is less demand for asphalt pavements (see § 597) and more competition in rock asphalts; while in this country there is, or at least was formerly, a general belief that Trinidad lake asphalt makes a better pavement than asphalt from other sources.

Cost of Construction.

Asphalt pavements are compar atively expensive, since the tools and machinery employed in mixing and laying the asphalt are costly and subject to large depreciation whether idle or in use, and also since the business requires a considerable proportion of skilled labor. One of the peculiarities of the bugness is the disproportionate amount of cap ital invested in the plant compared with the business done, often an expensive plant being maintained in a city for one or more years without laying any pavement or at most only a comparatively small amount. Another peculiarity is that the working season is short, extending only from, say, the first of May to the first of November; and as expert superintendents and foremen are indispensable, it is necessary to employ this skilled labor by the year.

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