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Chips, dust fly as PennDOT seals Route 906, Tyrol Blvd.

| Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Many area motorists have not been pleased with various road 'oil-and-chip' projects undertaken by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

However, a PennDOT spokeswoman said there is good reason for the projects - to extend the life of the roadways.

In the last week, PennDOT crews have applied oil and stone chips to several roads, including Tyrol Boulevard and Route 906 in Monessen and Rostraver Township.

Motorists have complained not only about the high amount of dust the procedure creates during traffic, but also because of potential damages to their vehicles.

Car owners claim tar splashes up from the road and sticks to their vehicles. They have complained about chipped paint resulting from stones being kicked up from their vehicle as well as passing vehicles.

Valerie Petersen, community relations coordinator for the District 12 PennDOT office in Uniontown, said the department is aware the procedure is not a favorite among motorists, but she noted she gets few complaints about it.

"My number is the one most people would call to complain. I do get some calls, but not enough to make me say, 'Oh, my,'" Petersen said.

She said the procedure is performed on roads that are generally in good condition.

"It seals the road before any cracks can develop," she said. "If you get cracks in the road, water can seep into those cracks, and when winter comes, you know what that means - potholes.

"It is a preventive procedure."

Commonly known as oil-and-chip, this maintenance activity is used to extend the life of low- and medium-traffic-volume roads for three to five years.

Petersen said oil-and-chip is performed only during hot weather, which varies from region to region.

Surface treatment requires a sweeper, oil distributor, stone chipper, rollers, numerous dump trucks and about 18 crew members on the road.

First, the roadway is swept and the hot liquid asphalt is sprayed on the road. Then, fine stones are spread on top of the asphalt.

Finally, the area is rolled and swept again to remove loose stones. Generally, it takes about two days for the stones to fully bond in the hardened asphalt.

Petersen suggested motorists reduce their speed on these roads until the stone and the asphalt fully adhere. This maintenance treatment seals the road surface to keep water out and restores the friction of the surface to enhance traction.

Petersen said PennDOT uses a cycling system to determine which roads undergo oil-and-chip each year.

"It also depends on the amount of traffic roads get," she said.

She added that PennDOT crews usually visit potential oil-and-chip sites every four to five years.

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