Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Several counties getting needed road repairs this summer

By Marqise Allen

We're smack dab in the middle of a couple of chip sealing projects in Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish and Island counties, and we want to thank drivers for your ongoing patience. We know it has been tested.

This is the first summer we have used chip sealing in this part of the state in a long while as the state looks to stretch limited resources while maintaining roads. A lot of the highways (State Routes 9, 20, 530, 542, 547 and 548) that contractor crews are working on haven't been repaved in more than 20 years. Chip sealing is a cost effective way to get rid of those cracks and potholes to keep the road safe for drivers. The price tag is about a third of what it would take to repave. This work does take time, though, and can only be done during the day in the summer months when it's warm enough for the seal to cure. Unfortunately, traffic backups come with the timing of this intensive work on some sections of the highway. We base the timing of the work at each location around non-peak travel times after looking at the traffic volumes, but some congestion is unavoidable.

Chip sealing repairs roads at a fraction of the cost of asphalt repairs, allowing us to stretch our maintenance dollars further.

Among the hot spots we've seen are SR 20 on Whidbey Island in the Morris Road area, and on SR 9 near SR 530 in Arlington. During heaviest times, we've seen it take from 30 minutes to an hour to get through some of these areas.

Once a lane of traffic is closed, crews spray an oily water mix on the highway before immediately applying a layer of crushed gravel (known as "chips"). A roller then drives over the gravel to compact it. Drivers play an important part in the next step. The lane opens up for one to two days so traffic can go over the new surface to finish off the compaction process. Speeds are reduced to 35 mph during this time to protect the newly repaired road, keep rock chips from cracking windows, and to limit the amount of dust that gets kicked up that could limit visibility. A sweeper is then used to get rid of any loose gravel before the road is restriped. The final step is to apply a fog seal. This is a spray of liquid asphalt which increases the longevity and durability of chip seal.

It's nuanced work that takes a bit of time to complete, but leaves the road in much better shape. Depending on level of traffic, chip seal treatments typically last 6-8 years at 15-20 percent the cost of asphalt. So again, thanks for understanding. Oh, and the good news is the end is in sight. Crews should wrap up sometime before the end of September, and if all goes according to plan, you won't have to put up with this again for several years.


Ellen Baker said...

Parts of Mt Baker Hwy 542 near Glacier have received a top coat of oil and they look slick. Will there be a second layer of aggregate?

chipseal nightmare said...

There has been no signage or warning to the public about the when the work will happen, with significant delays up to 45 minutes plus. This is causing people to be late to work or appointments or missing them altogether. Good luck catching your flights etc. Plan on an extra hour to get anywhere!

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