Chip and seal not popular, but extends the life of roadsPublished 8:51am Monday, September 21, 2009
CASSOPOLIS-For the last four weeks, the Cass County Road Commission office staff and road commissioners have been bombarded with calls about the road work it has been doing on 22 miles of the county’s primary roads.
The work has been applying a thin layer of asphalt and stone commonly called chip and seal.
esidents who live along these stretches or use the roads haven’t been happy because of the dust and loose gravel inherent in the process.
The road commission has been explaining to these citizens that the chip and seal process is preventive maintenance for their roads that seals cracks and micro cracks in the road surfaces.
The road commission, like many in Michigan, uses the method to extend the life of newer roads by five to 10 years.
It’s not cheap, but it is a lot less expensive than completely repaving a road – $17,000 a mile for chip and seal versus $75,000 a mile for repaving.
Better yet, the $477,000 in costs were paid for with federal stimulus dollars that came into the road commission through the Michigan Department of Transportation, the pass- through agency for federal dollars.
The stones used are crushed to a uniform small size and have jagged edges.
The jagged edges are necessary so that when they are rolled in or vehicles drive over them, the stones better adhere to the fresh layer of liquid asphalt.
“Nobody likes it,” says Louis Csokasy, the road commission’s manager.
He and road commissioner Roger Bowser have received many of the calls from residents who, not understanding what was going on, thought the road crews were turning their perfectly good roads into gravel.
“What you are trying to do is to keep the water out of those cracks. The thing that destroys roads is water. Water seeps down and expands 9 percent when it freezes. That lifts the asphalt and allows potholes to form. If you can keep the water out of the asphalt, then you don’t have potholes,” Csokasy said.
After a week of driving over the stones, residents living along the 22 miles of repair were able to see the results when road crews came in and swept the remaining stones to the road shoulders, although even that generated some complaints, Csokasy said.
A few months ago, the road commission implemented a new process to receive and eliminate complaints.
For chip and seal, it has meant going back and spot checking for places, like intersections, that may not have received a thorough sweeping the first time around.
Csokasy noted that chip and seal is the primary preventive maintenance process for most county road commissions in Michigan.
But Cass County has traditionally done more asphalt overlays then chip and seal.
Due to continued budget pressure the chip and seal process will continue to be a growing factor in Cass County’s overall road program.