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Washington County on the road to fixing faulty Broadfording Road surface

June 28, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A new road paving method being tested by Washington County this year has left a portion of Broadfording Road patchy and slick with asphalt emulsion nine months after the work was done.

At least two other roads have shown similar problems after receiving applications of chip seal, a paving method that mixes asphalt and stone, said Robert J. Slocum, deputy director of the Washington County Public Works Department.

The problems have compounded frustrations among residents, who say even when the process is done properly, chip sealing makes driving unsafe, damages vehicles and leaves stones in their front yards.

"It's terrible," said Judy Merrbaugh, who lives on Broadfording Road. "I wish they just hadn't done anything at all."

The county began using chip seal on some rural roads this year to save money on asphalt, which has risen in price more than 60 percent in the last year, county officials have said.

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By using chip seal, the county has been able to treat miles of roads that otherwise would have gone untouched.

Problems with the chip-seal application, however, have left some roads slippery and caused others to bubble and crack.

"We have had some glitches, but we are taking it very seriously and doing everything we can to get it fixed," Slocum said.

Slocum said the biggest problems have come on Mount Briar Road in Keedysville, Benevola Church Road near Boonsboro and Broadfording Road between Hagerstown and Clear Spring.

He called Broadfording Road, which was treated in October 2007, "the worst of the worst."

The problem, Slocum said, is that too much asphalt emulsion was applied to the road in relation to the amount of stones that were laid.

It initially was undetectable because the road was treated in the cooler months of the fall, but during a recent stretch of hot days, the emulsion became soft and rose to the top.

"At the right mixture, stone and asphalt do really well," Slocum said. "When too much asphalt is added, instead of being a binder, it becomes a lubricant."

Judy Merrbaugh said the road was unsafe and messy during a stretch of 100-degree days earlier this month.

"It looked like an oil leak," she said.

Her husband, Joel Merrbaugh, said the road has improved somewhat, but still is tacky on hot days and leaves tar on the couple's shoes.

He said they have to take their shoes off to go in their house and cannot walk their dog on the road.

Recently, an anonymous flier was distributed to residents along the treated stretch of Broadfording Road that reads: "Friends & Neighbors. Let's Pave Broadfording Road!!!"

While he understands the frustration, Joel Merrbaugh called the suggestion "ridiculous."

"I pay taxes. Now, someone wants me to spend more money to do work the county was supposed to do?" he said. "I don't think so."

Slocum said the county will resurface Broadfording Road during the week of July 7. He said while the application still will be chip seal, it will be a "higher-end" product that will, hopefully, fix the problem.

Slocum said despite the problems with chip seal, the county hopes to continue using the process.

"Provided these issues can be solved, we will continue," he said. "We don't anticipate sustaining these types of issues in the future. But we're not going to ask anybody to be subject to this kind of aggravation, either."

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