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Can’t We Come Up With Something Better Than Chip Sealing Our Roads?

Rock chip notice. Image: Terry Morgan/KEZJ.com

It’s 2014. Can’t we come up with something better than Chip Sealing our roads?

Highway 30, between Filer and Buhl, is currently being Chip Sealed causing traffic delays, long waits as portions of the highway are closed down to one lane, and the possibility of chipped paint and broken windshields.

Chip Sealing is a pretty basic process: take one road, dump loads of hot asphalt and tiny rocks on it, and smash it all down. Here’s why many states, including Idaho, still Chip Seal roads:

  • Asphalt deteriorates in time because of the sun and weather. A Chip Seal helps seal the surface and provides an armor coat for skid and weather resistance. The best aspect of Chip Sealing is simple economics.
  • In 2009 the cost for Chip Sealing was $23,000 a mile. Chip Sealing saves taxpayer dollars because it protects the road from deterioration and greatly delays the need for a new asphalt overlay to repair a deteriorated road. At this time, asphalt overlays (new blacktop) cost up to $265,000 per mile.

Not only did Chip Sealing delay my morning commute by almost 25 minutes (portions of 30 were one lane only and the speed limit was dropped to 35 over the loose aggregate due to construction and safety concerns), but the car in front of me kicked up one of the larger rocks that winged my Mustang and chipped the paint. I can’t even begin to imagine how many windshields have been cracked because of Chip Sealing.

I get it. Chip Sealing is an inexpensive process, and combined with repaving, can make the road more durable. Sure. But consider the drawbacks:

  • Noise and Vibrations: Driving on a Chip Sealed road is almost like a dirt road, and because of the materials used, it’s louder.
  • Safety: If the stones get loose, as they often do, they can cause cracked windshields, and loss-of-control crashes (especially for motorcyclists, bicyclists and small trucks).
  • Slippery When Wet: Excess asphalt can rise to the surface during storm situations and cause extremely slippery and dangerous conditions.

Chip Sealing is still used all over in the United States and around the world. I do understand that it is effective and inexpensive, but there has to be a better way.

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