Routt County’s road-paving policy up for discussion Tuesday night |

Routt County’s road-paving policy up for discussion Tuesday night

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will host a 5 p.m. public hearing Tuesday to formally sign a resolution limiting the size of the gravel used in chip-and-seal treatments of paved county road to three-eighths of an inch. Above, Routt County Road 14 and its chip-and-seal surface near Dakota Ridge.

Cyclists, motorists and pedestrians who value a smooth county road surface may want to tune in Tuesday night when the Routt County Board of Commissioners convenes in a public work session to consider its chip-and-seal policy.

On the table is a recommendation from the Multi-Modal Road Users Advisory Board that 11 county roads receive no larger than half-inch gravel chips. Those roads are county roads 14, 18, 22, 27, 33, 35, 36, 38, 41, 62 and 64.

Stuart Handloff, chairman of the advisory board, said his group took up the chip-and-seal question last spring after a section of Routt County Road 14 beginning near Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center received a double coat of three-quarter-inch chip-and-seal.

"I think there was some dismay in the cycling community that this was going back to a sub-standard surface from 2004 and prior," Handloff said Monday.

Chip-and-seal is the use of an application of oily asphalt and small chips of crushed gravel to renew the surface of roads without undertaking a substantially more expensive asphalt overlay.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said he does not expect the commissioners to formally adopt a new policy Tuesday night, but he said they are likely to give county staff a direction to draw up the language of a chip-and-seal policy for possible future adoption.

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As a practical matter, Sullivan said, only about 20 percent of the chips in a half-inch or less product are actually the maximum size. The remaining 80 percent are smaller.

The subject of chip-and-seal debate became a hot-button issue in 2004 when road cycling enthusiasts launched a campaign to persuade the county to stop using chips as large as three-quarters of an inch, contending that they drastically reduced the experience of recreating or commuting on a bicycle on county roads.

County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said in 2004 that prior to 1987, three-eighths-inch chips were used. They were less noisy to drive on for cars, but because they weren't able to absorb as much oil, he said they were less effective in preserving the asphalt surface.

Since then, the county has agreed to use chips a half-inch or smaller in size, and has taken the added step of applying a second coat of oil on the top of the chipped surface, which helps to improve the riding surface, Handloff said Monday.

Draper said the second coat of oil also has provided solar gain that has helped to keep county roads freer of snow and ice.

Handloff, who was an active participant in the 2004 discussion, said the three-eighths-inch question didn't figure prominently in the advisory board's discussion this year. Rather, the board was reacting to the use of three-quarter-inch gravel on C.R. 14.

Handloff said his group understands that C.R. 14 is a special case because it has never been an asphalt road. Instead, Road and Bridge has tried to make what was a stretch of gravel road that receives high vehicle traffic more durable with beefy applications of chip-and-seal.

In 2011, he said, the existing chip-and-seal surface received a coat of oil, a layer of three-quarter-inch chips, followed by more oil, more three-quarter-inch chips and a final coat of oil.

The Multi-Modal Road Users Advisory Board is recommending half-inch and smaller gravel be used as the second gravel layer in any future double applications, he said.

Draper told the commissioners earlier this fall that from the standpoint of the cost to apply chip-and-seal, it's a wash between the half-inch-sized gravel predominantly used on county roads today and other sizes. The larger chips cost less to crush but they also require more oil to make them adhere to the road surface. Smaller chips are more expensive but require less oil.

Draper said Monday that the cost of chip-and-seal with half-inch chips ranges from $30,500 to $47,658 per mile depending on road width and the cost of traffic control. The cost for the three-quarter-inch chips are about $46,225 per mile.

Handloff said his current group of nine members, including four enthusiastic cyclists, takes a broad-minded approach to the application of chip-and-seal and considers a variety of users including construction, agriculture and industrial traffic.

"I think our group feels that what's good for the roads is good for everybody," Handloff said. "We didn't feel the half-inch (gravel) was a deal-breaker."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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