Monday, September 13, 2004
Steamboat Springs Earlier this summer, George Thomas wanted to take an out-of-town friend for a bike ride. They decided to head up Routt County Road 129 toward Hahn's Peak, looking forward to a smooth, scenic trip.
Instead, they rattled over a fresh layer of chip-seal, getting two flat tires over the miles-long segment of road.
"It's just terrible," Thomas said. "You feel like you're in a blender."
Thomas and a group of more than 20 Routt County residents are bringing their chip-seal complaints to the county through a group called the Stop the Brutal Chip-n-Seal Alliance.
Lyman Orton helped organize the group at the end of August, said Bernadette Murray, Orton's assistant.
The main complaint is that the size of the rock the county uses to chip seal roads is so big that it makes for a jarring cycling trip, and also poses safety hazards to bicyclists and can cause damage to vehicles and windshields, Murray said.
The county will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 to discuss its road-paving plans. At that time, public concerns about the chip-seal program will be heard, and the county will discuss why it uses the size of rock it does. County officials said the larger rock is significantly less expensive.
Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said the county has used the same sized rock for years, and chip seals roads every five years on a staggered schedule.
Larger rock is less expensive because it lasts longer, he said. Cost specifics will be available at the meeting.
"It's really all about money," Draper said.
The chip sealing of sections of popular biking roads - such as Routt County roads 129 and 14 - has brought the concerns to the forefront, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
Ultimately, the county has to look at the costs and benefits of various road treatments, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
Stahoviak also encouraged anyone interested in the issue to attend the meeting.
The Stop the Brutal Chip-n-Seal Alliance has met once and is encouraging residents as well as local and statewide groups to present their concerns to the county. Local bicycling stores and some statewide bicycling tour groups have said they also prefer a smaller rock for the chip seal, Murray said.
Concerns extend beyond just cyclists, she said.
"We have huge support. It's not just the bicycling community, it's people who get their cars chipped up, and it's people who get their windshields broken," she said. "This is motorcyclists. This is Olympic athletes."
She said road biking brings a source of income that the county would miss if roads are continually paved with a large chip seal rock.
Alliance member Thomas agreed.
"It's a source of revenue that I feel the county's sort of squandering or throwing away," he said.
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