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Budget forces road improvement changes

County turns to chip, fog seals and rejuvenates

November 13, 2013 | 09:35 AM

Harrison County residents may have noticed that the road they live on or one they travel on has been treated differently this year with chip and seal or a rejuvenating fog seal instead of the usual repaving of asphalt. And there's a reason for that.

Financially, the county didn't have a choice but to make a change or continue operating the same way and eventually use up all of the Harrison County Highway Dept.'s savings fund and see its yearly riverboat gaming dollars' reach become shorter and shorter because of the constantly rising cost of asphalt.

When the county began receiving riverboat gaming funds nearly 15 years ago, it immediately began paving miles and miles of county roads each year until this year, when a new board of commissioners was faced with a financial black hole and decided to attempt to turn it around.

The county's motor-vehicle highway fund was in the red nearly $400,000 in 2008, $204,000 in 2009, $378,000 in 2010 and $366,000 last year (the fund was in the black in 2012 after much of the budget was moved to riverboat). Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel projected, if it continued the same operating philosophy, the fund would have cost $500,000 more than revenue this year and that's not including nearly $400,000 that was budgeted in the riverboat funds.

The county now has 784 miles of paved road. Using a 10-year cycle, Russel said the county would have to pave about 79 miles per year to keep up at a cost of $4.7 million, according to 2013 dollars. The cost to pave 79 miles in 2003 was just $2.4 million.

"What will it be in 2023?" Russel asked.

So, while the cost of asphalt continues to rise, the amount of riverboat funding the county receives is capped and never changes.

"Every additional mile of gravel road we pave worsens this situation," Russel said.

Russel said a road gains 10 years of life when it is repaved, five years of life when it is chipped and sealed and four years of life with the rejuvenating fog seal.

Chip and seal is the most common, and cheapest, form of pavement preservation. It uses the same ingredients as asphalt concrete paving, but the construction method is different. With chip seals, a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface, followed by the placement of small chips or aggregate. The chips are then compacted to orient the chips for maximum adherence to the asphalt, and excess stone is swept from the surface. Chip and sealing increases friction, prevents aging, seals cracks and waterproofs the roadway.

Fog seal rejuvenation makes the asphalt softer and less susceptible to cracks. It replenishes the asphalt's oils and helps water run-off and extends the life of the surface. The method is still in the early stages of use and will be evaluated accordingly, Russel said. If it turns out to be better than chip and seal, as Russel said he expects, then it will take on a larger role in the budget plans.

With a combined effort of paving (344 miles), rejuvenating fog seal (288) and chip and seal (192), the county treated or will treat 824 miles this year. If all of that money ($3.4 million) was spent on paving only, as was the practice in the past, it would have covered only 559 miles, Russel said.

"By including chip seal/fog seal and rejuvenating fog seal in our program, we generate more service life each year than we lose, and our overall pavement condition will improve over time," he said. "If we were to use all the funding we used in 2013 for HMA (hot mix asphalt) paving only, we would lose more service life each year than we gain and our overall pavement condition would decline over time."

Russel said the highway department knew the plan wouldn't be popular with residents, but it's what had to be done based on the budget.

The commissioners also restructured the highway department, causing some former foremen to be demoted, to help save money. And recently, with the blessing of the county council, the commissioners voted to approve placing tracking devices on highway department vehicles.

Twitter: @rossschulz

  1. print email
    Highway 62 Between Corydon and Edwardsville
    November 14, 2013 | 09:33 AM

    Why was 62 attempted repaved? Nothing was so bad about the pavement on that highway. I don't recall potholes. I consider the chip/seal or fog treatment made the highway in worse shape and it's extremely noisy. I believe it was a waste!

    Corydon resident
  2. print email
    November 14, 2013 | 09:34 AM

    I travel along state road 62 between Edwardsville and Corydon and the chip and seal treatment has ruined that road way. It is extremely noisy to drive on and the gravel layer is rough and breaking loose causing damage to vehicles. I find myself driving Corydon Ridge now just to avoid the chip and seal highway. The fog seal that the county has used seems a much better solution. Doing a quality job on fewer miles of roadway is better than doing the lowest quality chip and seal job on more miles of roadway. I hope county officials will not follow the incompetent lead of INDOT-Southeast and do the lowest quality job possible and leave the residents with the burden of a nearly undrivable roadway.

  3. print email
    November 14, 2013 | 09:40 AM

    62 is a state road, not a county road.

  4. print email
    November 14, 2013 | 10:26 AM

    Why did they chip and seal roads that were in good shape (County and State)? Doing this to good roads seems like a big waste of money to me.

  5. print email
    Chip n Seal
    November 14, 2013 | 01:57 PM

    I have seen roads treated with the chip and seal that don't seem to need it.

    Besides the noise and rough ride, it also acts like a cheese grater on your tires. The increased wear on your tires is a big negative.

    JW Laconia
  6. print email
    November 14, 2013 | 05:30 PM

    I don't have any statistics to back up JW's claim as to whether or not chip/seal acts like a cheese grater. It would seem to me like as long as you are rolling there shouldn't be an issue. Stuff like locking your brakes or hard cornering (taking turns like Mario Andretti) I could maybe understand. Anyone know for sure or is this just speculation? Also it would seem to me like in icy conditions that the chip/seal would hold up far better than regular asphalt.

  7. print email
    November 14, 2013 | 07:05 PM

    I live along hwy 62 and just had my car serviced last week. I was not happy when I saw the damage to my car and tires from driving on the chip and seal layer. The gravel chips are breaking free from the roadway and if one travels 62 it is easy to see the spots where the chip and seal is breaking loose. Most states abandoned the chip and seal method of asphalt many years ago because it was ineffective for asphalt preservation and also made for a very noisy road service. It's basically a gravel road soaked in sealer. The state didn't bother to use a roller on the surface to compact it as it would have if applying an asphalt topping therefore it is rough like a gravel road. The state of Indiana and our county government is using this method now simply because it is the cheapest method for resurfacing roads. The roads I travel that have been fog sealed are much better to travel and I suspect the residents who live along 62 would have been very happy if the state had used this method instead. The county highway department would be wise to learn from the state's mistake especially for more heavily traveled roads. It will be interesting to see how much of the chip and seal layer breaks off when the snow plows hit the chip and sealed roads this winter. I've noticed the rough layer on 62 doesn't drain as well due to the course gravel layer that holds more water when it rains as compared to a smooth driving surface. I assume it will be icier this winter for that reason and the chip and seal will not hold up as well as asphalt. I suspect the residents will be ready to vote the current state and county politicians out of office for deciding to use the out dated chip and seal method of resurfacing on the roadways that residents drive every day. That decision demonstrates the short sightedness of our current government leaders.

  8. print email
    November 15, 2013 | 09:27 AM

    Seems like our county commissioners would be pushing on the state politicians to get hwy 62 east of Corydon resurfaced now since that is a popular route that tourists take to get to Corydon. Indiana is celebrating it's bicentennial in 2016 and that is a main entry way into Corydon. As someone who works with tourists in the town, I hear lots of complaints about that stretch of highway now and it's an embarrassment to our town. Only good thing is that I can blame the mess on INDOT rather than the county highway department. I advise the tourists to take I-64 instead of the scenic hwy 62 route now to save them from the rough stretch of highway and potential damage to their cars from the loose gravel and chips.

  9. print email
    chip and seal
    November 15, 2013 | 07:24 PM

    the reason seems that we using chipand seal now on our roads is that we don,t have the funds.that sounds about wright all funds where used up building corydon ramsey road speedway

  10. print email
    Going back in time..Ashamed of our Roads...
    November 15, 2013 | 08:23 PM

    Seriously ??? Someone Please tell me what was wrong with St.RD 62 or Shiloh Rd.I still say fix the roads that need it. Widen them. Straighten out those bad blind curves. Blacktop them. Look at Webster Rd, Grange Hall Rd,and Pleasant Ridge Rd. They have one lane. Two cars can barely pass each other without one going off the road. My gosh. Use the money for goodness. Not stupidness. Just saying there are plenty of roads that really need fixed. But our road was fine. Now it's like a old bumpy rough riding horse road. The oil is drying a pretty black. Lol. Just completely disappointed in this
    county's choices. I would like to know who is in charge of these things. They must just blind fold a person turn them twice and have them point to a map. And Bam. That's the road they go to. They should straighten out some curves and widen some roads that need it. That would help stop some wrecks. And maybe save someones life. But I guess that would be to much work for them to do.

    Just sick of the crap..
  11. print email
    November 15, 2013 | 09:35 PM

    I agree. The state and county has wasted money on the chip and seal effort rather than using the money to improve other roads that need improvements desperately. We have to get rid of these Tea Party Leaders that want to take us back in time 30 or 40 years. Let's get some real Republicans in office that can work with Democrats to improve the future of our county and state. This current set of elected leaders are just creating messes that will have to be cleaned up in the future and cost us more money. I think the last time I saw the chip and seal method used on frequently traveled roads was the late 70's. What a joke!

  12. print email
    2014 Election
    November 17, 2013 | 11:38 PM

    In the 2014 election, when the Corydon Democrat gives out a question sheet for candidates, I would like a question asking which candidates for Commissioner, Council, State Senate, State Representative whether they support chip and seal and find out which ones would put it to an end if they are elected. Candidates that will stop this stupidity will get my vote. Those that want to keep chewing up my tires will not.

  13. print email
    November 18, 2013 | 10:46 AM

    Tea Party...Really?

  14. print email
    To 2014 election
    November 18, 2013 | 03:02 PM

    So you would rather vote for someone that would put an end to chip-and-seal and raise taxes? They'd have to be raised to pay for road improvements using the previous method. I'll take my chances with chip-and-seal and fog seal.

  15. print email
    November 18, 2013 | 06:24 PM

    Ending the chip and seal does not mean that taxes will have to be increased. A lot of money was spent to put chip and seal on roadways which were in better condition before the chip and seal layer was applied. I will vote for candidates that know how to use taxpayer money wisely and deliver quality solutions to the county's problems. Chip and seal on main roadways is not a wise use of money. Fog seal is a much better solution for roads that simply need sealed rather than repaved.

  16. print email
    November 18, 2013 | 07:09 PM

    The math in this article does not add up. I think the author left out the decimal points in the miles of road affected. Perhaps it should have read "With a combined effort of paving (34.4 miles), rejuvenating fog seal (28.8) and chip and seal (19.2), the county treated or will treat 82.4 miles this year. If all of that money ($3.4 million) was spent on paving only, as was the practice in the past, it would have covered only 55.9 miles, Russel said." Therefore the county treated 55.9 miles of road way rather than 559 miles of road.

    I would prefer the county use the money spent on chip and seal for fog seal. They chip and sealed the road I travel and it is a horrible road now when it was fine prior to the chip and seal. I agree with the comment above regarding our elected officials and I will not vote for a candidate that would advocate for chip and seal regardless of party. I am concerned about the future of our county and the lack of vision by the current set of elected leaders. It seems they are only concerned with doing the minimum level of maintaining the status quo at a minimum of expense rather than building for the future and delivering quality solutions to problems.

  17. print email
    November 18, 2013 | 10:39 PM

    I will vote for people that will vote to take care of roads that need repairs and not ones that chip and seal good roads and make them bad roads. Perhaps we could do quality work on a few less miles rather than a poor job more miles. Quantity does not always equal quality. Candidates need to be asked where they stand on this. When people have to get repairs to their cars and buy tires more often, that is like paying a tax.

  18. print email
    November 19, 2013 | 09:39 AM

    Clearly, we need to go back to having commissioners that hire their relatives and buddies at the highway department, don't care whether those good old boys work or not, and throw pavement on the ground just to get votes rather than thinking about longer term spending and infrastructure considerations.

  19. print email
    November 19, 2013 | 01:00 PM

    What amazes me is how many people in Harrison County are road construction enginners and paving experts. Just because you drive a vehicle doesn't make you an expert on the best method for maintaining a paved surface. Also, how many times does someone have to say that St. Rd. 62 IS NOT A COUNTY ROAD! The state (Repubican controlled) maintains that road. It is good, however, to see that a large number of people are concerned about the county's spending of money on any project. I remember back before the "boat" (yes, Harrison County was here before the casino arrived) when roads were cold patched and we had miles of county roads that were still the old, dusty gravel. We've come a long way, baby. Just be glad that we have the means to keep our roads repaired. Many counties in Indiana do not.

    John Q.
  20. print email
    November 20, 2013 | 06:58 AM

    I agree that we need to save money and that it is irresponsible to continue to repave these roads....however, there are better alternatives than chip and seal. Improperly applied chip and seal creates a major road hazard for motorcyclists. When you are riding on a road at 40-45 and pieces of the road break out from under you, you can't help but wonder who they are gojng to kill.

  21. print email
    November 20, 2013 | 10:36 AM

    Mike, How many times have you been beamed with on of those rocks...I am going to gues alot...add the speed of you plus the speed of the rock...100mph rock hitting you is pretty bad for a biker or a windshield. stay safe

Barbara Shaw
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