Chip-and-seal paving starts in Cape County

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Crews laid down the first layer of rock in the chip-and-seal process Tuesday on County Road 273.

Chip-and-seal paving has begun in Cape Girardeau County, more than a year after first being proposed as a money saving alternative to asphalt.

County Road 273, which stretches for 1.3 miles south from Highway 25 to the Stoddard County line, was paved Tuesday, the first piece of Cape Girardeau's 2008 experimental chip-and-seal program.

Scott Bechtold, the county's highway administrator, said the road gets "fairly heavy traffic," mostly from factory and farm trucks.

The last of the three-phase paving project was completed Tuesday. Small limestone chips were embedded in a coat of a gooey oil mixture, called the seal. The road was given a two-inch base layer of rock, and on Monday, a primer seal was sprayed, Bechtold said.

"There'll be a little bit of loose gravel on these chips for a few days," Bechtold said.

A sign warned drivers turning off from Highway 25 that there was fresh oil on the road, because the oil layer was not completely dried.

Bechtold crouched down near the pavement and explained the oil dries quickly; the stone chips are applied within moments of the seal coat.

AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Crews pave County Road 273 using the chip-seal process on Tuesday, June 24, 2008.

"The chips help protect the seal from traffic, so traffic doesn't break it down so quickly," he said.

The paving plan, recommended by the county's road and bridge advisory board in April 2007, was approved by the county commission the following month. But advertising for the work was so late in the season, no contractors submitted bids. The program was advertised again earlier this year and five companies responded.

Blevins Asphalt of Mount Vernon, Mo., bid $788,124 and won the contract to apply Cape Girardeau's chip-and-seal paving this year on county roads 273, 316, 380, 422, 523, 539, 440 and 522, which totals more than 11 miles.

Caleb Stokes, a fourth-generation member of Blevins Asphalt's founding family, supervised Tuesday's paving. He said chip and seal is popular in southwest Missouri, where his company is based.

"It's a little cheaper to maintain the roads. It's not asphalt, but it's strong. It'll hold up, eliminate potholes, eliminate dust," Stokes said. "You can maintain more roads with it -- asphalt, you might do two, three miles a year; [with chip and seal] you can do six or seven."

He said chip-and-seal paving can be applied nearly 65 percent faster than asphalt.

How long the paving will last depends on the ground below.

"If you have soft soil, then, no, it won't hold it," he said. "Asphalt won't hold up either, it'll just last a little bit longer and eventually just break up. If your subgrade, your base rock, is hard, it'll hold up a long time."

After a few good rains and compression from heavy traffic as it resumes, the dust drivers typically experienced on the once-dirt road will disappear, Stokes said.

The farmers who live near County Road 273 were too busy in their respective fields to respond to calls about the chip-and-seal process.

Larry Payne, chairman of the county's road and bridge advisory board, said he was unable to make a site visit; some board members visited the paving project Tuesday and reported they were pleased. Road and bridge board members are not paid and "receive no remuneration for our $4-a-gallon gas" to make site visits, Payne said.

The next meeting the Cape Girardeau County's road and bridge advisory board is at 7 p.m. July 7 in the county administration building, 1 Barton Square in Jackson.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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Crews begin the chip-and-seal process

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