One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and over one-quarter of the bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A 70-percent increase in annual aggregate production may be required to upgrade the transportation infrastructure. Natural aggregate is widespread throughout the conterminous United States, but the location of aggregate is determined by geology and is non-negotiable. Natural aggregate is in short supply in the Coastal Plain and Mississippi embayment, Colorado Plateau and Wyoming Basin, glaciated Midwest, High Plains, and the non-glaciated Northern Plains. A variety of techniques have been used to overcome local shortages, such as the use of substitute materials, recycling, and importing high-quality aggregates from more distant locations.
Although potential sources of aggregate are widespread throughout the United States, many sources may not meet certain physical property requirements, such as soundness, hardness, strength, porosity, and specific gravity, or they may contain contaminants or deleterious materials that render them unusable. Encroachment by conflicting land uses, permitting considerations, environmental issues, and societal pressures can prevent or limit development of otherwise suitable aggregate. The use of sustainable aggregate resource management can help ensure an economically viable supply of aggregate. Sustainable aggregate resource management techniques that have successfully been used include (1) protecting potential resources from encroachment; (2) using marginal-quality local aggregate for applications that do not demand a high-quality resource; (3) using substitute materials such as clinker, scoria, and recycled asphalt and concrete; and (4) using rail and water to transport aggregates from remote sources.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Aggregate resource availability in the conterminous United States, including suggestions for addressing shortages, quality, and environmental concerns
U.S. Geological Survey
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center