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Monday breakdown: Road maintenance projects ramping up around Washington County

June 23, 2013

With the summer months now in full swing, road maintenance projects, including complete resurfacing, slurry sealing, and tarring and chipping, are ramping up around Washington County.

Portions of Downsville Pike (Md. 632) and Virginia Avenue (U.S. 11) — both state-maintained roads — have received extensive work lately, prompting a Cearfoss reader to question through Mail Call why other county roads in need of repair haven’t received the same level of attention.

“I read here in the paper where they repaved the Downsville Pike and the Virginia Avenue and everything,” the reader said, noting that area roads like Resh, Mount Tabler, Spade, Keysers Ridge and Broadfording Church roads are being tarred and chipped instead. “... So can someone tell me why the county roads get tar and chip, and the state roads get repaved?”

Robert Slocum, the county’s deputy director of public works, said Friday that Virginia Avenue is in the process of being fully repaved, while Downsville Pike and nearby Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65) have recently been sealed with slurry by the state, which handles maintenance on those roads.

For county-maintained roads, such as those referenced in the Cearfoss area, Slocum said traffic volume and speed limits are major factors in determining whether to patch and fully repave, or to tar and chip.

“Any county-maintained road that had the designed speed and volume that are spoken of by the caller here, such as Downsville Pike or Virginia Avenue, those would be asphalt-paved roads. Those would not be chipped roads,” he said. “... Lower-volume, lower-speed roads are often considered first for chip sealing.”

Slocum said the tar-and-chip method is a useful preventive maintenance technique because it only costs about $2.50 per square yard and it provides a good wearing surface after a couple of weeks, once the stone has been fully embedded into the tar emulsion material.

“On the other hand, to do an asphalt road ... (it’s) going to run on the order of $15 a square yard,” he said. “It’s an enormous cost difference.”

Slocum said the county maintains about 850 miles of roads, and typically can tar and chip about 50 miles a year, while about five to 10 miles per year get a full resurfacing, including patchwork and new asphalt.

County leaders have budgeted nearly $2 million of additional funds in the upcoming fiscal year dedicated to road maintenance, Slocum said. About $5.3 million — up from about $3.5 million — is available for needed work in fiscal year 2013-14, which begins July 1.

— Compiled by C.J. Lovelace


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Monday Breakdown
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