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Oil, stone chips harm Harts Run Road surface

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By Deboarh Deasy
Thursday, July 19, 2012, 2:12 p.m.

Hampton Township officials are aware of possible problems with the recent tar-and-stone chip treatment of PennDOT-maintained Harts Run Road. "We have a very good working relationship with PennDOT and they did that work," said Christopher Lochner, township manager. "We will contact them and review it with them."Since the road was covered in early July with a liquid oil emulsion and stone chips, a section of Harts Run Road — located on a curved grade between Middle Road and Saxonburg Boulevard — has been transformed into a pair of shiny black tracks with some missing chunks of surface. "We're getting a number of complaints because they (residents) think that the township did it," said Victor Son, Hampton Council president. A vendor hired by PennDOT performed the work. "We're looking into it," said PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi. Lochner suspects a problem with the oil mixture used to coat the road. "They probably ran into an emulsion problem and it didn't adhere," he said. "If they feel they had a bad batch, I'd be surprised if they didn't correct it immediately." Such oil-and-stone-chip treatments, although unpopular with many motorists, "can extend the life of a road five to 10 years," Lochner said. During such road treatments, crews first apply a layer of tar-like, liquid emulsion that seeps into cracks and provides a sticky base for a second layer of aggregate — stone chips — that gradually work their way into the underlying pavement. Son, president of Hampton council, said a handful of residents questioned him at the township's Fourth of July celebration about the recent application of oil and stones to Harts Run Road. "With oil costs going up, we've all had to reduce the amount of roads we can repave," Son said. "So you look for alternative ways to preserve roads."Such treatments can set the stage, however, for dangerous driving conditions, according to Hampton Police Chief Dan Connolly."There are two safety issues that can develop when the tar and chips are improperly applied, or there is a problem with the quality of the tar," Connolly said. "The first issue is a result of excessive, loose chips or gravel." Connolly said. "Limestone chips seem to work better than fine gravel, which has a tendency to 'roll.' "The loose material builds up on berm, roadway centers and intersections, causing vehicles to skid," Connolly said. "This is an extremely dangerous situation for motorcycles."The second issue is the failure of the tar, or liquid asphalt, to allow the stone material to adhere properly, and thus provide the necessary traction surface on the contact portion of the roadway," Connolly said. "This is extremely dangerous when the road surface becomes wet, particularly on hills and curves. "

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