Road commission overlays troubled spots on Monroe

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Two spots along Monroe Road near Allegan were recently repaved to fix a failed chip seal coating laid down nearly two years ago.

Allegan County Road Commission managing director Craig Atwood said the problem cropped up in areas that were exposed to full, day-long sun.

“If it’s a 90-degree day, in those spots you can get road surface temperatures of 140 degrees,” he said. “Basically, it would liquefy the tar layer underneath; there was a buildup of too much of that and it would came up above the stone. It then grabs onto tires.”

Chip sealing is a preventative maintenance method to extend the life of pavement. Rather than milling off some of the surface and laying down a new layer of asphalt, which is very expensive, chip sealing involves a liquefied tar being spread onto the road. Then a layer of fine stone gravel is spread, which is pressed into the tar.

“It seals the road from further oxidation” and fills in cracks, Atwood said. “Unfortunately, the process is very weather dependent. Excess moisture and air temp affect how fast it sets.”

In the case of Monroe Road, the chip seal was laid down late in 2016. Atwood believes the mixture didn’t set properly and wintertime snowplowing scraped off the stone aggregate.

After complaints rolled in after the hot weather melted the tar, Highway Maintenance of Detroit was brought in to redo the chip sealing at their expense. When the problem reared its head again with Memorial Day’s hot weather, the road commission laid new pavement atop the two main problem areas.

Atwood said they had seen that solution work in a couple other areas in the county where heavy truck traffic was turning at intersections and breaking up the chip seal.

“But even those areas were not as bad as this on Monroe,” Atwood said. “I do feel we were able to resolve this really quickly this year to minimize issues. Obviously, I’d love to pave with hot mix asphalt all over, but that’s cost prohibitive.”

He said problems like this were rare. Highway Maintenance, a longtime contractor with the county, was the low bidder for this year’s work. They also negotiated their contribution for the new pavement put down on Monroe.

“Highway Maintenance did approximately 42 miles of chip seal on county primary and local roads last year and we plan on another 48 or so miles this year,” Atwood said.

The contract has the option for the road commission and company to agree to extend it for a year, keeping materials costs flat; that saves money because those prices usually always go up each construction season.

“They do work all over the county, and we rarely have any problems with them,” he said. “When things do happen, they’ve been good about coming back to make it right.”

Atwood acknowledged he had heard at least a dozen people calling to complain about the condition of the road as well as the compensation offered to those who sought compensation for damage to their vehicles.

“We definitely had a couple people last summer who weren’t happy,” he said. Several contacted The Allegan County News last year noting the problem and complained that some of the compensation offered was not sufficient—in one case, a resident said a friend had been merely been offered a bottle of cleaning solution to remove the tar spattered on a vehicle.

While the road commission is not responsible for compensation, he said he had contacted them in some cases to urge them to do more.

“While compensation is going to vary between people, we’ve talked to the contractor and told them they need to do something more,” he said.

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