Routt County commissioners to formalize chip-and-seal policy
January 16, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners is contemplating a formal resolution to support multi-modal uses of transportation on all county roads by restricting chip-and-seal surface treatments to gravel no greater than three-eighths of an inch. The resolution could be voted on Feb. 14.
Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper confirmed to the commissioners that he is in support of the new policy that would eliminate the use of larger chips as a primary surface treatment.
"I support the commissioners' direction to standardize the chip seal surfaces county wide, as our alternative users are here to stay and speak in solidarity with a unified voice on their desire for consistent, smooth cycling surface," Draper wrote in a memo.
An exception to the three-eighth-inch edict would be in the case of a double application of chip-and-seal applied to paved roads in particularly bad shape. In those cases, only the first layer could get an application of three-quarter-inch chips, to be topped with the smaller three-eighth-inch chips, according to the language in the resolution.
The resolution, if approved next month, represents the follow-up to a Nov. 8 meeting when members of the public, and especially road bicyclists, attended a commissioners work session to speak out in favor of the smaller chip, which they say provides a safer and more enjoyable riding surface.
The commissioners spent more time Monday talking about research by Draper on how to provide a better riding surface on road shoulders. Members of the public pointed out in November that although the shoulder should be the safest place for cyclists to ride, too often loose chips get deflected off the main traffic lane onto the shoulders, where they become a hazard.
Draper said Monday that sweeping the shoulders of loose chips might be the best way to improve riding while protecting the road.
"Research has bound no counties or contractors that perform activities intended to accelerate the smoothness of the roadway, specifically the edge of chipped shoulder," he wrote.
Draper told the commissioners there is a real concern in the industry that using metal rollers or heavily loaded water trucks in an effort to compact chips deeper into the sealed surface creates a real risk of fracturing the edge of the shoulder.
Steve Williams of the county's Multi-Modal Road Use Advisory Board told the commissioners he was still hopeful that a rubber-tired vehicle on the right summer day would have a chance of mashing the chips into the oil-based sealer on the shoulders of the roads.
"I'd like to find out if a rubber-tired rig driven up and down the shoulder on a real hot afternoon could do it," Williams said.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com