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This morning, our county held its first "bike to work" event. The County Executive was there and he is a supporter of alternative forms of transportation and hybrid buses which the county is now buying.

A few of us complained about the extensive use of "tar and chip" road surfacing in the county. The County Exec said he hates it too, but he said that his county engineer keeps showing him data that supports its use. The county engineer argues that while tar and chip needs replacing every three years versus every ten years for true asphalt roads, the overall cost is still significantly less.

My observation is that within six months of tar and chip being put down, all the same cracks, bumps and potholes reappear. It definitely does not last three years! Tar and chip surfacing leaves loose gravel on the road for months and then leaves a permanently rough surface that still has all the problems it had before it got this "window dressing."

One county official told me once that tar and chip is better because it provides better traction. Oh really? Loose or weakly-bound gravel might help with light icing, but IMO, not in other all other circumstances which prevail 99% of the time.

Does anyone have any actual engineering or cost data or references that I could send my County Exec to help him dispute his engineer's claims as to the advantages of using tar and chip?

Many thanks for any responses.
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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Proper Application of Shake and Bake

Bacco said:
...all the same cracks, bumps and potholes reappear...
...leaves loose gravel on the road for months...
Last summer one of our regular weekly routes was chip and sealed. I thought it was ruined for the summer but when we went to ride it the next week it was in ideal condition. The cracks and potholes had been properly repaired prior to application. Somehow they also managed to apply the stone in a manner that had uniform coverage without any excess loose gravel anywhere. They also chose stone of appropriate size and grade that it did not negatively impact our cycling. One season later after a particularly hard winter on the roads this chip and seal road is still in good shape while the next county over the road is a total mess.

Proper application is probably not as economical as having some road gang sling gravel like Cool Hand Luke, but done properly it is a good option. I still prefer asphalt.
 

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You may be fighting a system that is built around constant and never-ending repair efforts. The reasons may have more to do with local or state politics than the principles of road building and -maintenance.
 

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yup
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SE Oregon is pretty bad too. Our road system has gone almost all chip-seal, and it is done poorly- we have some surface streets with 4" wide cracks filled with tar. It is pure heaven to find an old stretch of asphalt. I wonder if these studies take into account tire damage and reduced gas mileage from increased rolling resistance? Since that is a cost to the consumer not the state probably not.
 

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i like whiskey
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tferris said:
I wonder if these studies take into account tire damage and reduced gas mileage from increased rolling resistance? Since that is a cost to the consumer not the state probably not.
Ha!

Since when did any local government entity care about the well being of it's citizens. In Dallas, they look at us like a never ending bank account that is required to pay for their hyper-expensive projects that never seems to generate the boost they had planned. They certainly could care less about your gas mileage or vehicle condition.
 

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chamois creme addict
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One advantage to chip-seal

Up here in the Pacific NW, I will say that chip-seal roads are actually much better to ride on in the rain. Compared to smooth tarmac, there is much less puddling and water sitting on top of the road. I am not sure if it has to do with drainage through the matrix or if the chip-seal roads are not as prone to "rutting" in the vechicle tracks, but even in a steady rain with full fenders and flaps riding on chip-seal is a much more dry experience than smooth tarmac.
 

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I think of chip-seal as yet another area in which our generation inherited a First-World asset and has downgraded it in the name of tax-cutting fervor.

Here in the PacNW we inherited a first-class asphalt-paved road system that has been progressively down-graded to tarred-gravel due to a lack of funds to even maintain what the generation or two before us built. We can't afford to maintain our roads at the standard set 40-50 years ago. We are the Piggiest Generation.
 

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No stats.......chip seal is for secondary roads, asphalt is for main arteries. The asphalt is more expensive. I ride both, like going from an airport runway to smooth glass. Nothing eats up tires like chip seal. Chip seal roads are less traveled.

We had a bid to re-due our driveway a couple years ago. To repave with asphalt was about $5,000. An oil seal was a couple of hundred. Most counties have private companies do the asphalt, so it goes to the lowest bidder. You could call an asphalt company and they could probably give you a ball park figure one over the other.
 

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Big government problem

Bacco said:
Does anyone have any actual engineering or cost data or references that I could send my County Exec to help him dispute his engineer's claims as to the advantages of using tar and chip?
In 1980, Ronald Regan said "Government is not the solution, it is the problem." With that in mind, efforts have been underway around the nation to reduce the size of government. Unfortunately, part of the definition of "government" is that roads and bridges, state parks, schools, and public universities all come under the umbrella. So, what we have seen is continuous reductions in the funds available for these things, and the results are pretty painfully obvious.

The cheapest way to do roads is to build them really well in the first place. This all costs more money up front, even though it saves money in the long term. So instead, we build really cheap roads, and then have to maintain them as cheaply as possible. Chip/seal is very cheap, and when your budget is tight, you sacrifice both road quality and lowest long term cost of ownership.
 

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Keeping up with Junior said:
Last summer one of our regular weekly routes was chip and sealed. I thought it was ruined for the summer but when we went to ride it the next week it was in ideal condition. The cracks and potholes had been properly repaired prior to application. Somehow they also managed to apply the stone in a manner that had uniform coverage without any excess loose gravel anywhere. They also chose stone of appropriate size and grade that it did not negatively impact our cycling. One season later after a particularly hard winter on the roads this chip and seal road is still in good shape while the next county over the road is a total mess.

Proper application is probably not as economical as having some road gang sling gravel like Cool Hand Luke, but done properly it is a good option. I still prefer asphalt.
Yes, absolutely. If the chip sealing process is done how it is designed to be done it really isn't that bad at all. The actual process consists of one coat of a bigger aggregate with tar followed by a second sealer, ie smaller aggregate and tar, with both coats being compacted as they are laid down. Then a vacuum comes along behind and sucks up any loose aggregate. It's almost as smooth as asphalt when done properly.

The way it's done on the cheap is to lay down one coat of the larger aggregate and tar and continue along the road until you move to the next one. They use traffic to compress the layer. This does little for actual improving the issues that caused the road to break apart in the first place.
 

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jabpn said:
Yes, absolutely. If the chip sealing process is done how it is designed to be done it really isn't that bad at all. The actual process consists of one coat of a bigger aggregate with tar followed by a second sealer, ie smaller aggregate and tar, with both coats being compacted as they are laid down. Then a vacuum comes along behind and sucks up any loose aggregate. It's almost as smooth as asphalt when done properly.

The way it's done on the cheap is to lay down one coat of the larger aggregate and tar and continue along the road until you move to the next one. They use traffic to compress the layer. This does little for actual improving the issues that caused the road to break apart in the first place.
wow....I've never seen it done properly then.....ever
 

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Arrogant roadie.....
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In my city, they use very small pea gravel, and they send a street sweeper down to get the excess gravel off about 1 week after application, then daily for about a week, until all the loose gravel is gone. They do this on nearly every residential street every few years.

One of the suburban towns, however, uses significantly larger gravel, and never sweeps it up afterwards.
 

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Cummins Fuel Efficiency Guide

http://www.trucknbus.com.au/allrig/tech/fuel_economy.pdf Go to page 26 of this guide. I realize that these numbers do not perfectly correlate to bicycles, however the ratios are probably similar. Even if they are not, look at what they are costing motorists (tax payers) with their "cheap fix" seal coats.
I know I've seen similar statistics someplace else. I've also seen studies that show tire wear reduced by as much as 40% on chip sealed roads. I didn't search for those, but you can probably find it with google.
 

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jabpn said:
Yes, absolutely. If the chip sealing process is done how it is designed to be done it really isn't that bad at all. The actual process consists of one coat of a bigger aggregate with tar followed by a second sealer, ie smaller aggregate and tar, with both coats being compacted as they are laid down. Then a vacuum comes along behind and sucks up any loose aggregate. It's almost as smooth as asphalt when done properly.
That's the way it's done around here. But in 6 months it kinda get a bit more rough. Not bad, but rougher. I am so used to it that I never really notice. Years ago (15) roads around here were asphalt mostly. But man, when you get a nice peice of new asphalt, what a pleasure to ride.
 
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