Upcoming Town Road Projects Include Chip Sealing, Re-Engineering, Drainage
With $4.4 million in budgeted projects covering nearly 50 miles of roadway this summer — and likely next spring — Public Works Director Fred Hurley offered a primer on the various types of work residents and Newtown Bee readers will be seeing as local Public Works crews and contractors dig in across the community.
Chip Sealing. Chip sealing is an application of a quarter-inch of stone and asphalt glue designed to extend the life of a road, not replace full repaving. According to Hurley, 25 years ago when a road was paved, it could be expected to last 18 or so years; now a town can only really expect eight or nine years.
Chip sealing adds three to five years to a road’s life, at only 10% of the cost of a full repaving. Hurley stated it would cost roughly $80 million to repave all 280 miles of road in Newtown, but only $8 million to chip seal.
“It’s a case of balancing the two to try and cover the town,” said Hurley. “It allows us to get to the bad roads before they get really bad.”
Lamination. Hurley said that the mix for asphalt has changed in the last 20 years — formerly, it used an oil-based solvent, but now it has a latex base due to air quality issues. The oil-based solvent put volatile organic compounds (VOCs, or, according to Hurley, “the bad stuff”) into the air.
VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. However, the change to latex came at a cost, with road life dwindling to eight or nine years. Hurley also said that the state Department of Transportation laboratory admitted to local municipalities that some batches of asphalt were off, leading to delamination.
Delamination is the deterioration the topmost layer of asphalt, causing it to strip off after exposure to traffic, plowing, freezing, and other damage.
“That’s what we’re dealing with, not the traditional potholes,” said Hurley.
Hurley said the town deals with areas with delamination via a lamination process to extend the life of the road, a “strategy that’s working pretty well.” He said the engineering principal behind it is similar to laminating a piece of wood — the laminate makes it stronger than the single piece of wood.
Full-Depth Reclamation. The process of fully replacing and re-engineering a road is normally only done in town due to drainage issues, according to Hurley. A full reconstruction is when all the remaining asphalt is ground up and worked into a new base.
New material is either added or subtracted as needed to change the elevation of the road as needed for drainage. Then a two-inch base coat is rolled out followed by an inch-and-a-half of top coat.
Overlay. Asphalt overlay is a paving method of applying a new layer of asphalt to a deteriorating surface. Instead of entirely tearing up the old asphalt, an overlay project will use the existing layers of road as a base for the new pavement.
Crews apply a layer of oil glue, then place a new top coat. Some asphalt surfaces with severe damage like rutting, potholes, large cracks, and expansions will require milling before an overlay may be applied.
Hurley said that Newtown has a lot of roads that were not properly paved in years past, so when his crews start milling, they hit dirt instead of still having milled pavement left.
“That’s not supposed to happen,” said Hurley, who noted that Town Engineer Ron Bolmer now goes out to look at roads before milling begins.
Road Reconstruction/Re-Engineering. Road reconstruction requires the full removal of existing road surface, then rehabilitation of the road bed — the layer below the road’s surface. It can be reconstructed using new material or it can be rehabilitated by pulverizing and mixing cement into the existing section.
Replacing or rehabilitating the road bed increases structural capacity of the road section for long term performance. After, a new layer of asphalt is placed on top.
In some cases, things like drainage or intersections may be re-engineered for improvements.
Drainage Work. Hurley pointed out that Newtown was once very rural, and water from the town’s ubiquitous farms would merely be allowed to drain into fields. Today, however, most of those fields are “people’s front lawns” as the town has grown from approximately 5,000 to nearly 11,000 houses.
The town has been in a “constant battle” to address old drainage, replacing metal pipes that would rot out with newer plastic pipes. He said the town has been chasing deterioration for 30 years, and his crews are still finding rotted drainage pipes as they move from project to project involving related paving.
Even when drainage conduits are primarily concrete, small crossovers that are formed from metal that are rotting could be weak links in the entire network.
Looking toward the coming year, Hurley said that he and his team are in the process of locating and evaluating whether metal drainage conduits in various neighborhoods are sufficiently rotted out, prompting significantly more costly and complex replacement.
Bridge Repair. Hurley, along with Bolmer, has been working for more than 30 years to repair or replace 30 of the town’s bridges, with approximately $400,000 per year budgeted, as the town’s leadership has been “very supportive.”
When Hurley and Bolmer started working in Newtown, the tragic collapse of a mid-section of the Mianus River Bridge on Interstate 95 in Greenwich had them preoccupied with bridge failures, so they have made Newtown’s bridges a priority. There are ten to 11 bridges left in town to be done. Hurley said that while not all of them will be done by the time he retires, they will all be at least in the planning stage.
“Potholes are an inconvenience, but a failed bridge will kill you,” Hurley said. “No bridge in town is rated less than ‘fair;’ there are no ‘poor’ ratings. There is no potentially failed bridges because of our 30 years of working on the problem.”
Guide Rails. Guide rails, the modern term that replaced “guardrails,” are required by state statute for roads with a slope over a certain percentage, according to Hurley.
The old cable and post guardrails are “no longer acceptable” in Connecticut; only metal guide rails are used. Hurley stated that many residents don’t prefer the metal guide rails, as they are “ugly” and “shiny.”
He also said guide rails are not meant to stop a vehicle from going down a grade, but to “guide them away from the danger.” The town has recently boosted spending on guide rails.
Hurley said if a slope is filled out, guide rails aren’t needed, but there are a lot of slopes in Newtown. Newtown is a “hilly town with miles of guide rails to install.
“It’s a matter of cost and time,” he added.
For those residents hoping for new resurfacing, drainage, and/or guide rail in their neighborhood, the town has determined the following roads or sections of roads — with accompanying measurements in linear feet [LF] — will be completed before July 1, 2022:
Currituck/Parmalee Hill guide rail, 782 LF; Drummers Lane drainage, 120 LF; Drummers Lane overlay, 1,000 LF; Fairchild Road drainage, 1,800 LF; Fairchild Road reclaim/pave, 1,800 LF; Hanover Road guide rail, 675 LF; Hattertown Road guide rail, 2,938 LF; High Rock overlay, 5,700 LF; and Kale Davis Road overlay, 1,200 LF.
Also, Lazybrook Road overlay, 1,500 LF; Leopard Drive overlay, 1,600 LF; Liberty Drive reclaim/pave, 1,100 LF; Johnny Cake Road drainage, 690 LF; Mile Hill South overlay, 1,600 LF; Old Gate Lane drainage, 670 LF; Old Gate Lane overlay, 840 LF; Osborne Hill Road drainage, 4,300 LF; Riverside Road overlay/leveling grade, 930 LF; Rock Ridge Road #2 drainage, 1,400 LF; and Washington Avenue overlay/topcoat, 1,460 LF.
In addition, the in-house paving program will involve portions of Albert’s Hill, Bresson Farms, Echo Valley, Chimney Swift, Cobblestone, Edmond Road, Farrell, Founders Lane, Gelding Hill, Hattertown, Kent, Longview Heights, Old Castle Drive, Plumtrees, Poverty Hollow, Shady Rest, Sherman, Smoke Rise, Sugarloaf, Taunton Hill, Taunton Lake, Timbermill, Totem Trail, and Walker Hill.
Chip sealing will be applied to Academy Road, Beagle Trail, Bennett’s Bridge, Bishop Circle, Brennan Road, Camelot Crest, Canterbury Lane, Castle Lane, Cherry Heights, Clapboard Ridge, Daves Lane, Elana Lane, Erin Lane, Fallen Leaf, Farmery Lane, and Georges Hill Road.
Also, Gopher Road, Green Knolls Lane, Holmes Farm Road, Indian Hill Lane, Maltbie Road, Meadow Woods, Newbury Road, Nighthawk, Pheasant Ridge Road, Philo Curtis, Quail Hollow, Quaker Lane, Quarry Ridge Road, Ridge Road, Sleepy Hollow Lane, Somerset Lane, Split Rock Road, Stonybrook Road, The Old Road, Twist Hill Lane, Valley Field Road South, and Valley View.
Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.