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Old 08-23-09, 04:04 PM   #1
rideon7
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Yakima County DOT loves chip seal

While some may think this post is most appropriate for the Advocacy and Safety forum, I am posting it here because of the greater wisdom and experience that comes with age (that means you folks).

Washington State Dept. of Transportation in general and Yakima County DOT in particular continue a love affair with chip seal that began a couple of years ago.

Last week, a road resufacing subcontractor violated the DOT's own guidelines of not using gravel more than 3/8 inch in diameter and chip sealed one of the most popular cycling routes near Yakima with, well, rock, making it all but unusable by a road bike. The story was covered briefly by a local TV station: http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/53873117.html

This chip seal is dangerous not only for cyclists but for motorcyclists, and with gravel that size, there will be plenty of windshields that are going to need replacing from flying gravel.

The county commissioner for this area, Mike "don't look back" Leita, is typically dismissive of the concerns over the chip seal. His basic response is, "Can't do anything about it now."

The DOT loves chip seal over hot mix asphalt because of the money savings. This conversion of county roads to more and more chip sealing is bound to continue until sufficient numbers of people (e.g. cyclists and others) say enough is enough. The irony is that the resurfacing of these roads with chip seal has made many of them worse than they were prior to the chip sealing.

Do any of you have experience with this kind situation in your area? What has been done to counter the move to chip seal? What actions and organization have had to occur to get the powers that be more responsive to those who actually use these roads?

Thoughts and ideas are welcome.
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Old 08-23-09, 04:09 PM   #2
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Here in Clark County, WA, one of my routes to work was ruined by chipseal, the aggregate was HUGE! Considering the cost for projects are likely bid by square foot, in this case it seems the county could have saved some money by NOT resurfacing the bike lanes in this case.
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Old 08-23-09, 05:47 PM   #3
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I have not encountered this problem in San Diego County. Our roads often get resurfaced with a rubberized asphalt, made partly from recycled materials. My only gripe is that I can no longer see the traffic signal loop detectors for several months after the new surface is applied.
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Old 08-23-09, 05:48 PM   #4
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Here in Jackson County, MI. They also like to use the chip stone. Last week they hand chipped one of my bike routes and as you all ready know the road is unridable. I was riding my old bike that day. Now that I have a new bike I,ve had to pick a new route. But this wasn't a bike lane, we not have many of them. They need to put that stuff called Overband on the Bike Lanes. It just seals the cracks.
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Old 08-23-09, 05:57 PM   #5
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Be careful with that oil sealer

hi,
I made the mistake of rolling thru some of that tar oil they apply to the roads to make it stick to the gravel/asphalt mixture pre paving?, it seemed fairly harmless and almost instantly my tires started to dissolve and mix with the asphalt oil and I had instant hybrid tires that were almost too wide and thick for my frame.
I also managed to lightly powder coat my frame wheels and my jersey with that mess.
After the ride I started scraping the thick stuff off with oddly enough and windshield plastic Ice Remover as did a few other's in my group.
My tires were alittle worse from the mixture, I did find paint thinner did a good job on the frame and wheels.
I will stop walk on the grass and carry the bike next time they are priming the road with oil.
DOug

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Old 08-23-09, 07:36 PM   #6
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Chip seal is a fact of life in New England. Not only does it control cost, it provides better traction in the winter. Snow plows tend to smooth it out a bit during the next winter after its laid down. It would appear that they confine its use to slower speed roads and leave the 50+ 2 lane highways smooth. That means that 60+mph automobiles are your close companions.

Chip seal pretty much took the fun out of my TT bike.....
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Old 08-23-09, 08:10 PM   #7
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My son, who interned with TxDOT for the last three summers (he's a fourth year Civil Engr student) has provided me with the following numbers for CenTx area. These are approximate numbers for a medium use (15,000 cars per day) two lane road with 8 foot shoulders.

Seal coat (chip seal) $20,000 per mile

Hot mix (smooth asphalt) $66,000 per mile if the underlying base is in good shape. Otherwise add another $15-20,000 for "seal coat" to go under and repair the asphalt.

If there is a turning lane in the middle, add another one third.

I might add that most all roads have to have their top renewed every 5 - 7 years if they have much traffic at all, otherwise the water and weathering breaks them down and the maintenance is much more expensive. So all DOT's are faced with the problem of so many roads and only so much money. Its an economic choice.


I use a Trek 520 for my road bike, so having 28 or bigger tires is no deal. I just let the pressure down to 70# or so and go along. Right now I've got Conti 4 Seaons in 700x28. My next tires will be either Rivendell Roly-Poly's or Schalbe Marathon Racer in 700x30. It makes a tremendous difference.
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Old 08-23-09, 08:12 PM   #8
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We noticed on our CC tour that Chip Seal is used on secondary roads in much of the South. It is very difficult to ride on and no fun biking on it with 23 mm 120 PSI tires.
I do not think that they will listen to us bikers. Money dictates what is done.
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Old 08-23-09, 08:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by djnzlab1 View Post
My tires were alittle worse from the mixture, I did find paint thinner did a good job on the frame and wheels.
Kerosene or tar remover at the auto store is a much better way to clean the frame of tar.
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Old 08-23-09, 08:18 PM   #10
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In doing research on the DOT's use of chipseal, or more specifically on how cyclists in the area can respond to it, I've found that the Washington DOT has a claims office for damages resulting from 'negligence' in DOT work. Yakima County also has a claims office, and each year they get a couple of claims for damaged windshields from the gravel off chipsealed roads. That doesn't mean they pay the damages, but it does mean a claim can be filed.

Since the DOT here has already acknowledged that they used the wrong size gravel, and the county commissioner is aware of concern by users of the road over safety issues, seems to me they've opened the door to having to compensate for personal and property damage to bikes, motorcycles, and cars and trucks. This would be a strong incentive for them to redo the road properly, unless they are extremely attached to being liable. A letter to the editor could make people aware of this.

I'm going to try to find out more about the claims process tomorrow when govt. offices open.
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Old 08-24-09, 07:31 AM   #11
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I serve on my local county board. I have served four terms in my state legislature and also on my local city council.

It is becoming increasingly clear that people do not want to, or, can no longer afford to pay taxes.

We can longer expect to get what we want, whenever we want it. I would imagine the chip seal is being used as a cost saving measure, ie: Now that money saved can be used for other essential services.

Cost cutting has been going on for years, but the cost cutting has been done behind the scenes with little notice of the public. That is beginning to change as the demand for cost savings is now effecting services and programs we use everyday.

This is the tip of that iceberg. You will soon see other areas of your life impacted in the same manner.

We are approaching a period of time that the Stones wrote about 40 some years ago, "You can't always get what you want."

We are going to have to adapt or do without.
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Old 08-24-09, 07:57 AM   #12
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Texas has started using gravel that's too large for chip seal, too, everywhere. We call it boulderseal. It's getting harder and harder to pick a route that stays off it.
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Old 08-24-09, 08:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
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It is becoming increasingly clear that people do not want to, or, can no longer afford to pay taxes.
Yes, the chip seal was adopted to save money, as I said in my first post.

I agree with you, RepWI, that people do not want to pay taxes, or "more taxes" as they might say. It's a dirty word among many people where I live. One result is that anyone who runs for office claiming "fiscal responsibility" tends to get elected regardless of their overall qualifications (things like education, experience). Budget allocations tend to be, in my opinion, penny wise and pound foolish.

It's difficult to contend with a mindset like this, and a majority of people who think cyclists are weenies who should stick to the local bike path (we have just one, which is ten miles long total).

This "keep your hands off my money" seems fairly strong throughout the country these days. On the other hand, I believe that public money spent to benefit the community benefits all the individuals in that community. I also believe that one aspect of fiscal responsibility is fiscal accountability, so the botched chipsealing of one of the most popular bike routes in the area should be redone.
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Old 08-24-09, 08:20 AM   #14
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99.9 percent of the roads I ride here in rural NC are Chip and Seal. the other .1 percent are packed gravel. I am not sure but I do believe that is a major factor in my MPH average being only 14 to 15. I have found that when I ride in some of the organized rides in the larger urban areas I usually have a 16mph or better aveage over the same distance. It also seems on a lot of the roads I constanly feel as if I have a flt tire due to the increased rolling resistance.
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Old 08-24-09, 09:26 AM   #15
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Yes, the chip seal was adopted to save money, as I said in my first post.

I agree with you, RepWI, that people do not want to pay taxes, or "more taxes" as they might say. It's a dirty word among many people where I live. One result is that anyone who runs for office claiming "fiscal responsibility" tends to get elected regardless of their overall qualifications (things like education, experience). Budget allocations tend to be, in my opinion, penny wise and pound foolish.

It's difficult to contend with a mindset like this, and a majority of people who think cyclists are weenies who should stick to the local bike path (we have just one, which is ten miles long total).

This "keep your hands off my money" seems fairly strong throughout the country these days. On the other hand, I believe that public money spent to benefit the community benefits all the individuals in that community. I also believe that one aspect of fiscal responsibility is fiscal accountability, so the botched chipsealing of one of the most popular bike routes in the area should be redone.
Excellent response. I would vote for you in a minute if you were on a ballot in my area.
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Old 08-24-09, 09:59 AM   #16
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My son, who interned with TxDOT for the last three summers (he's a fourth year Civil Engr student) has provided me with the following numbers for CenTx area. These are approximate numbers for a medium use (15,000 cars per day) two lane road with 8 foot shoulders.

Seal coat (chip seal) $20,000 per mile

Hot mix (smooth asphalt) $66,000 per mile if the underlying base is in good shape. Otherwise add another $15-20,000 for "seal coat" to go under and repair the asphalt.

If there is a turning lane in the middle, add another one third.

I might add that most all roads have to have their top renewed every 5 - 7 years if they have much traffic at all, otherwise the water and weathering breaks them down and the maintenance is much more expensive. So all DOT's are faced with the problem of so many roads and only so much money. Its an economic choice.
Thanks for posting those cost figures. One major difference I've noticed in ~15 years of riding and driving asphalt and chip-sealed roads in Colorado's dry climate is that chip seal wears out significantly faster than smooth asphalt. 5-7 years seems extremely optimistic for chip-seal. 2-3 years has been my experience, and that's on rural roads.

Sure, this is anecdotal evidence, but I suspect the figures are different for different climates.
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Old 08-24-09, 04:56 PM   #17
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Chip Seal is a fact of life here and has been for years. In fact in many ways it is superior to other types of paving because it doesn't pothole so badly. Riding that surface was a big factor in which bike I selected because some do better than others on rough roads.

We still have hot mix on many of our roads and paths, especially on those that have large amounts of heavy weight traffic. I expect that will continue.

Oh yes, most of the people I know like chip seal except for the short period after it is put down. But, we get snow here so we have gravel on the roads much of the year anyway and windshields are almost consumable items.

Can't comment on the specifics of your primary complaint that the gravel used on that particular road is too large. If you think it is you might ask to see the specs. They should tell you what the DOT folks asked for. If they got what they asked for you indeed are out of luck for that road. If not, they can go back to the contractor to have the work corrected.

If the spec is not suitable for biking then you probably need to get involved in the process to get the spec changed. There may, or may not, be a cost impact. If there is you will need to justify the extra cost. That is the way the system works.

Economics 101: There is never enough money to satisfy everyone's desires.

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Old 08-24-09, 05:02 PM   #18
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Thoughts and ideas are welcome.
Bigger tires.

I went from 23c to 25c to 28c, now sticking with 28c on my fast bike.

Am currently shopping / searching for a new commuter bike and, due to the ongoing deterioration of roads, I want it to be able to handle 32c tires with fenders.
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Old 08-24-09, 05:24 PM   #19
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Bigger tires.

...

Am currently shopping / searching for a new commuter bike and, due to the ongoing deterioration of roads, I want it to be able to handle 32c tires with fenders.
And the deterioration of roads will be with us for the long term. When I got my drivers license, driving up to Door County, (60 miles) was a long trip. In the recent decades, commutes of that length has been no problem. Until now.
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Old 08-24-09, 05:29 PM   #20
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Bigger tires.
+1
and steel.
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Old 08-24-09, 05:35 PM   #21
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I like to know if there are any studies which show what happens to accident rates AFTER significant road improvement. Significant improvement like a two lane road into 4 lane with turn off lanes.
How about a Highway with 4 lanes into a limited access highway.
Are there good studies on that?
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Old 08-24-09, 05:58 PM   #22
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Quote:
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Bigger tires.

I went from 23c to 25c to 28c, now sticking with 28c on my fast bike.

Am currently shopping / searching for a new commuter bike and, due to the ongoing deterioration of roads, I want it to be able to handle 32c tires with fenders.
Do we know each other? Sounds like we're twins!

I also went from 700x25C to 700x28C, and then found that 700x32C were just too big for my Trek 600; so, like you, I'm looking for a solution.

According to Surly, both the LHT and Cross-Check will handle a 700x42C wheelset w/fenders, and 700x45C w/o fenders. The difference in price for the frameset is ~$20. The Surly Pacer will take 700x32C w/o fenders, but only 700x28C w/fenders.

I apologize for
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Old 08-24-09, 06:07 PM   #23
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Even when chip seal is done with pea gravel, it can still be done wrong. I was riding my Nomad (Kawasaki 1500cc touring scoot) and made a righthand turn over some over-deep gravel put down at an intersection. The front wheel bogged down and twisted violently to the right. I did a slow-motion high-side and managed to get my leg out from under before the bike went totally horizontal. The city paid for my visit to the ER for check up and a new clutch lever and mirror.
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Old 08-24-09, 06:21 PM   #24
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Pierce county Washington and the cities of Sumner and Puyallup do too. Ride the Daffodil classic or the Tour De Pierce sometime and see what I mean. Not sure about King county since I don't ride there except on my commute to Auburn and I've not run into it.
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Old 08-24-09, 06:24 PM   #25
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I live in Florida and we don't have chip seal but we do have millions (really) of retired yankees who don't even see other cars sometimes and definately don't see bicycles
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