Like many local road agencies, New York's Delaware County Highway Department has a limited budget to maintain the 270 centerline miles (two-lane roads) under its jurisdiction. According to Wayne D. Reynolds P.E., commissioner of Delaware County's Public Works, the highway department addresses those limited road dollars by preserving the existing system with an annual chip seal program — treating a fourth of the roads each year.
"We do what we can with the resources we have available," says Reynolds. "Most of the roads we're maintaining have a 'hammer stone' base and the increase in truck traffic and traffic volume has taken its toll on those roads."
Roads under the county's jurisdiction range from 4 to 7 inches of asphalt covering the large stone base. The chip seal program has been a mainstay in the county's maintenance approach to keep those roads in good serviceability. With each application, the county hopes to extend a road's service life another five to six years.
"We do some crack filling and some hot mix overlays, but our primary focus is to continue building up the roads with chip seal applications (some roads have five or six layers of chip seal)," Reynolds says. "In cases where we're experiencing heavy rutting due to the increase in truck volume, we T & L (true and level edges and excessive rutting) the road surface first before we apply a new chip seal coating."
With an annual maintenance budget of approximately $3.4 million ($1.3 million to support its own staff, $1.1 million for equipment expenditures and $1 million for outside contracts) the county's highway department tries to do as much as it can internally.
"Our staff takes great pride in being very efficient in executing the work that needs to be done," Reynolds says. "We complete our chip seal projects each summer within a three- to four-week period just after the Fourth of July."
In the case of this past summer's chip seal program, where Vestal Asphalt Inc. provided the emulsion, distributor truck and chip spreader, the county's crews trucked stone to the various road projects, provided its own traffic control and performed the required rolling after the stone was spread over the emulsion.
"We buy the stone we need in spring and begin trucking it to the various sites scheduled for chip seal," says Brian Francisco, general highway supervisor for Delaware County. "We take care of any preparation work required, like shoulders and T & L work, so that when it's time to begin applying the chip seal we're able to cover approximately 6 to 7 centerline miles a day. Our contract (with Vestal on the approximate 70 centerline road miles in 2005) called for four-tenths of a gallon of oil per square yard (application) and 22 pounds of stone per square yard. We purchased and hauled 25 pounds per square yard in case we needed to increase the application based on road conditions."
Delaware County's 2005 $300,000 contract with Vestal covered the 394,178 gallons of emulsion required, along with the cost of the distributor, chip spreader and service to operate those two pieces of equipment. Francisco says the county purchased the 12,318 tons of pre-tested stone separately from the Vestal contract.
"We've been doing it this way for a long time and seems to be the best approach in keeping our roads in good service," he says.
"For the cost, it's the most economical way to get the job done, and the planning and execution of the (chip seal) program allows us to complete the work in about three weeks. The system just seems to work out well for us."
Supplier, Contractor Role
Vestal Asphalt Inc, which is headquartered at Vestal, NY (near Binghamton), produces all grades of liquid asphalt emulsions — rapid setting, medium setting and slow setting — both anionic and cationic. The company utilizes these products for road construction services provided to town, county, city and village highway departments in central, western and northern New York, as well as northern Pennsylvania.