(WASHINGTON COUNTY) - Washington County is considering a new approach to maintaining its gravel roads.
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell of the Leader Democrat reports that Highway Superintendent Rick Graves and Assistant Superintendent Jerald Shanks told the commissioners at their meeting last week they've been using millings from asphalt roads on gravel roads. Millings, essentially shavings removed in preparation for new asphalt, are put down on a gravel road, then spread out and smoothed. Next, oil is applied and the road is rolled.
When finished, the road will look like a paved road, Graves explained later. It will not have the longevity of a newly-paved road, but will extend the life of and improve the surface of the gravel road.
Graves said the new process is in the trial stage and he's not yet ready to make a determination if this is a long-term solution. "I'm not gong to say it will work and I'm not going to say it won't," he said. Commissioner Dave Brown said he was impressed with the results of a road in his district and wants to see more.
Washington County has about 90 miles gravel roads.
The bigger road issue is maintenance of paved roads - all 650 miles worth. Graves said the county needs to pave around 45 miles per year just to maintain its paved roads on a 14-year cycle. "This year, we're hoping to pave 20," he said. Funding is the issue with the cost of paving a mile of road now at $60,000.
To help compensate, the highway department is sealing cracks, which costs about $2,850 a mile. That, however, is a short-term solution. "There's a lot of cracks in the county roads," Graves said.
Given the dwindling finances faced by municipalities and the rising cost of asphalt, the county has discussed the possibility of allowing some paved roads to go back to gravel "but hopefully, we won't have to," said Graves.
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