Chipseal resurfacing rocks Midland’s world

       Roads in the Midland area took on a new look and feel this week with the laying of a chipseal surface instead of traditional pavement.
       Funded through the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), the work - in which asphalt oil is sprayed on the road, covered by a layer of small rock chips, rolled and then swept - left the neighborhood residents weighing the possible pros of improved traction and extended road life against the cons of small, loose rocks and the need for more frequent surface upgrades in the future.
       “I got a couple of chips glued to my elbow,” commented Midland resident Eric Hanson, who lives near 25th Street and Wheeler Avenue. He said this temporary phenomenon occurred after driving over the freshly laid chipseal on his street, then removing a tire from his car that had picked up some of the rocks.
       “It extends the life of streets at much less expense,” responded Public Works Director Ron Mitchell, when asked about the “explosion of chipseal” in the Midland area by Westsider/City Council member Tom Gallagher at the June 27 council meeting.
       Only 15 to 20 percent of the city's road-surfacing work will be chipseal this year, Mitchell told council members, adding that he did not have details about the Midland rationale but would take steps to provide it. This followed a question from Gallagher as to why virtually all that neighborhood's streets are being chipsealed while streets in other areas are not.
       These details had not gotten to Gallagher the next day, but the Westside Pioneer was able to talk to managers within the city's RTA program, who explained that the Midland streets met the basic criteria for chipseal by having pavement that was worn - generally 8 to 10 years old - but still in “pretty good shape,” as Tom Francese, a City Streets program supervisor, put it.
       An exception was 26th Street, which had its last pavement overlay five years ago, according to a resident of that street.
       Under city policy, roads that are in worse shape, particularly those with deep cracks, will get pavement overlays. Such work provides about 2 inches of new surface and 10-plus years of life, as opposed to chipseal's roughly ¾-inch thickness and 5 to 7 years, according to city sources.
       Another RTA road-surfacing process is slurry seal, which is put on newer roads deemed to have less wear.
       Gallagher told the Westside Pioneer he thinks chipseal is fine on rural roads, but “for urban areas, it makes no sense at all. Asphalt holds up longer and the rock chips seem to get pushed to the curb and into storm drains.” An example was a previous city chipseal job on Fillmore Street. “All the rock wound up at the bottom of the hill,” he said. “It's this pesky gravity thing.”
       He also charged that the city “cuts corners” on its chipseal program. An example is sometimes omitting “fogsealing” - a final step that is intended to help preserve the oil and bind the rocks in. According to a representative of A-1 Chipseal Company, a Denver firm which has contracted with the city for the work, A-1 typically puts a fogseal on all its chipseal jobs. However, the city so far is only having A-1 fogseal in selected locations; in fact, none of the Midland streets were going to be fogsealed initially (see adjoining Page 1 story).
       John Tracy, a city RTA program management consultant, said the city is not yet sold that fogsealing is an absolutely necessary expense. While the fogseal cost of 10 cents a yard does not sound like much, it can add up to thousands of dollars over several miles, he pointed out.
       As a result, the city is experimenting by putting fogseal on some streets (such as Rockrimmon Boulevard and Cascade Avenue) but not others (such as Vindicator Drive), he said.
       The overall cost of chipseal is considerably less expensive than pavement overlay. Tracy provided figures showing that 12 miles of overlay this year will cost $3 million, while 16 miles of chipseal will cost $650,000.
       Asked why the cheaper chipseal is being used in greater quantities at a time when area residents are paying an RTA sales tax that brings in more road-repair money, Tracy indicated that the RTA infusion is helpful, but not a salvation. “The city has grown so fast, the money available to maintain everything in the city has fallen steadily, really since 2000,” he said. “When you only have so many dollars, you want to spread it around.”
       If money is to be saved, then the city ought to buy its rock chips locally instead of paying extra to ship the material from a company in Golden, Gallagher said. Although city studies have shown that the Golden chips are noticeably harder than local aggregate, the council member said the real issue with chipseal is not the rocks' hardness but how well they bond to the oiled surface.
       Francese and Tracy disagreed. “It gives a much stronger road surface,” Tracy said. “The Golden chips are also flatter and not as pointed as the local ones. It just ends up with a better surface that's longer lasting.”
       Varying opinions were offered by some Midland residents who were contacted about the project. “If it settles down, so it's not loose, it'll be fine,” Hanson said. “If not, I won't like it much.”
       Mike Greer, who owns an auto-repair business on Pecan Street, said he thinks the rougher surface “should help in winter,” especially on his fairly steep street. On the whole, he said, “It looks like they (A-1's crews) know what they're doing. And in the long run, it'll save money.”
       Jim England, a Midland resident and businessman who owns a trucking operation, criticized the chipseal surface. “I don't like it,” he said. “The chips are flying everywhere and they break a lot of windshields. It makes a mess.” However, he conceded that it “prolongs the asphalt,” and “it's here to stay no matter what we do.”
       “It looks pretty good,” said Clarence Boshart, a 25th Street resident who said he has lived on the Westside for 60 years. “It seals up the cracks and keeps the water from coming in.”
       Tracy gave kudos to the A-1 company. Saying he did not mean to be critical of city crews that have done previous citywide chipsealing work - including the job on Bott Avenue last year - he described A-1 as an experienced company that is more likely to provide a consistently good product.
       Another phenomenon of the RTA work this year is that numerous area alleys, formerly gravel, are simultaneously getting fresh pavement. According to Francese, the pavement is needed to “lessen maintenance of the alleys and to reduce dust.” In future years, such alleys may also get chipseal surfaces, he noted.

Westside Pioneer article