N. Huntingdon to try new paving process

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The quest to stretch its paving budget has led North Huntingdon down a new road when it comes to sealing cracks.

Township commissioners approved a nearly $74,500 contract on July 16, with Pittsburgh-based Russell Standard Corp. to apply a product called FiberMat that promises to last longer than ordinary “tar and chip” road preparations, according to Richard Albert, director of public works.

Traditional tar and chip involves applying a sticky emulsion to a cracked road surface and then spreading stone chips that adhere when it dries, according to Albert. The new material being tested contain fiberglass strands in the emulsion that help the stone chips bond better to the surface better. A top coat is then applied to seal the road surface.

Albert said the standard tar and chip surface lasts about five years.

“This (FiberMat) product claims to last eight years, which would be great if it works,” he said.

FiberMat costs about 10-percent more than traditional tar and chip, Albert said.

Valerie Petersen, spokeswoman for PennDot's District 12, said the agency is aware of FiberMat but has not yet used it on state roadways.

“We've used tar and chip for decades and it's worked well for us,” she said. “But we're always looking for innovations or anything that will improve efficiency. If it (FiberMat) seems to be product that has promise, we'll try it in selected areas and do some testing.”

Before recommending that the township try it, Albert inspected roads in the South Hills, Monroeville and Chippewa in Beaver County where the product was applied several years ago.

“My impression is that the material seems to hold up pretty well,” he said. “So we asked the commissioners if we could do a sort of test run in North Huntingdon starting in late August.”

Chippewa manager Mark Taylor said he's satisfied with FiberMat.

“We had a road in one of our housing plans last summer that was pretty dried up and beyond doing any real crack repair, including traditional tar and chipping,” he said. “But rather than pave it, we tried the FiberMat, and it has held up very well. This is road is in a plan with homes that sell for $350,000 and the residents have told me they are happy with the way it looks.”

No final decision has been made on which roads in North Huntingdon will get the new sealant, but Timothy Road near Oak Hollow Park and Barner Hill Road in Ardara are among the candidates, Albert said.

For aesthetic reasons, North Huntingdon uses the tar and chip process only on roads in rural areas that have relatively little traffic, Albert said.

“It doesn't look as good as paved asphalt and it can't be used on curbs, so we reserve it for the rural areas,” Albert said.

Though the director stressed that tar and chip isn't a substitute for rehabilitating a worn-out road, a longer-lasting product will enable the municipality to use more of the roughly $800,000 earmarked for paving this year — double the amount spent in 2012 — to address the growing list of streets that need to be paved.

“There's been a lot of residential development in North Huntingdon during the past 10 years or so,” he said. “And many of the streets that were built in the housing plans a decade ago are starting to show their age.”

In March, commissioners haggled over whether to add more streets to this year's paving program, but decided to stick with a system that grades the condition of roads from “A” to “F” to prioritize which streets get paved during a five-year period.

The system graded was created to serve as a guideline to ensure that the worst roads are fixed first, according to Manager John Shepherd.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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