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Guest column/Steubenville proactively preserving its roads

June 5, 2011
By MICHAEL DOLAK , The Herald-Star

Many of us in the city of Steubenville take our 255 miles of paved public roadways for granted. Most drivers only care about a safe, smooth ride. Our city relies on its roadway system to safely and efficiently move goods, services and, most important, our children 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

In reality, our roadway system is extremely critical to a strong and healthy economy and is very important to promote future development. Most of us think that a newly paved roadway will last forever, but Steubenville's roadway system is steadily deteriorating. Therefore the city has to change its road repair mindset, which is "new is better and worst roads first." We must take a proactive approach by implementing a proactive preventative maintenance policy by "keeping the good roads in good condition."

Some may ask what is preventative maintenance for roadways?

The best way that I can explain it is: Let's say that you go out and buy a new automobile. Will you change the oil every 3,000 miles or 50,000 miles?

The answer is obvious - you would change the oil after every 3,000 miles because you want to extend the life of the vehicle and preserve the value of the asset. Therefore by adopting a proactive preservation plan we can correct minor road deficiencies early and the life of our roadways can be substantially extended at a very low cost.

The city has in the past and will continue in the future to employ the following preventative maintenance treatments to help preserve our roadway system:

* Crack and joint sealing is an effective treatment for asphalt and concrete pavements. Crack sealing helps prevent water from penetrating the crack. This is the most cost effective treatment in early pavement life, as cracking is one of the first stages of pavement deterioration. Crack and joint sealing will extend the pavement life and fast application with minimal traffic disruption. This preventative maintenance technique will be used on various streets this summer.

* Micro surfacing is a cost effective process that is used throughout the country. It is a design mixture of polymer-modified asphalt emulsion, crushed stone, mineral fillers, water and additives. The mixture is properly proportioned, mixed and uniformly spread over a suitably prepared surface. Micro surfacing will extend the pavement life with a new riding surface, improve skid resistance and completely seal the pavement surface with minimal public inconvenience. This preventative maintenance technique will be used on Pico Street and Negley Avenue this summer.

* Cape seal is a new process that the city will be testing out this year. This is an engineered process that applies a reflective crack retarding interlayer to the existing pavement that is then covered with a micro surfacing layer. A cape seal will prevent reflective cracking, provide a cost effective treatment to service life and improve ride quality with minimal user delay costs. This preventative maintenance technique will be used on Johnson Road and Wellesley Avenue this summer.

* The last and most expensive preventative maintenance technique used is the asphalt overlay system which extends the roadway service life by approximately eight to 10 years, maintains grade and slope with minimal drainage impacts and improves the ride with a new smooth surface. This preventative maintenance technique was used to rehab approximately 2.5 miles along Sunset Boulevard last summer at a cost of approximately $1.5 million. This technique will be used on Hollywood and Wilshire boulevards and Sinclair Avenue this summer.

Finally, we are all well aware that some of our major roadways are well beyond utilizing preventative maintenance techniques; therefore as long as funding is available the following is a tentative list of roadways that are scheduled for rehabilitation during the next few years: state Route 7; Lovers Lane and Lovers Lane Connector; University Boulevard and Brady Avenue; and John Scott Highway and Mall Drive

Through the use of preventative maintenance, it is the city's goal to increase customer satisfaction, improve pavement condition, improve ride quality, improve road safety and lower life cycle costs and, most important, keep good roads good.

(Dolak is the city engineer.)

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