Bumpy road angers drivers

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This week, drivers crossing the county line on a major southern Johnson County highway bumped across the pitted asphalt of an unfinished resurfacing job.

The reason? State highway workers stopped coating a stretch of State Road 252, just east of Edinburgh, with liquid asphalt and stones, because the mix wasn’t sticking properly, Will Wingfield, state department of transportation spokesman, said.

More than 75 motorists lodged complaints about the work.

And now workers will be redoing a 3-mile section of the road, which will come with a price tag of about $50,000 and more time needed for the project.

Workers have been resurfacing State Road 252, between Interstate 65 and Flat Rock, with a technique called chip sealing, which is meant to make the road last longer with a lower cost than repaving. But that work stopped on day two of the five-day project because workers noticed bumps in the road and got complaints from motorists, Wingfield said.

Engineers determined that a combination of factors, including workers applying thicker asphalt than usual, dump trucks driving faster than the recommended 40 mph and high humidity, caused the chip sealing not to adhere properly, he said.

Highway workers will have to redo about 3 miles of the work they started on the 6-mile stretch in Shelby County. The work should start again this weekend, depending on the weather, Wingfield said. The project will now cost about $320,000, or nearly $50,000 more than planned, he said.

Workers will do the work on weekends, when traffic is lighter. State police will patrol the area more to enforce a construction speed limit of 40 mph, which is now required rather than recommended in the work area because of the problems, Wingfield said. State transportation department employees also will drive state vehicles to lead traffic back and forth during weekend construction where the highway is restricted to one lane and help maintain the slower speed limit, he said.

With construction starting again, motorists should expect a few more days of rocks flying up off other vehicles’ tires. Because workers are restarting the process, more time will be needed

before the rocks settle back into the road.

Last week’s chip-sealing job was worse than in past years because the rocks were bigger and the asphalt came up in chunks under tires, said Tony Murphy, fleet manager with Central Triaxle Inc.

His Edinburgh company has been sending dump trucks to the U.S. Aggregates quarry on State Road 252 for more than 30 years. His company’s truck drivers told him they had to slow down on that section of the highway, so he doesn’t think truck traffic was the cause of the problem with the resurfacing work, Murphy said.

The fresh asphalt and rocks rolled up in strips under the dump truck wheels and what didn’t stick flew off, drying on the road as thick lumps that are bumpy to drive over, Murphy said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Murphy said.

The rocks that flew off of Central Triaxle truck tires last week cracked or chipped about five of the trucks’ windshields and ruined one truck radiator, he said. The damage to the vehicles from the chip sealing will cost Central Triaxle about $4,000 to repair, but the company doesn’t plan to complain or ask the state for compensation, he said.

The state likely has gotten plenty of complaints already, he said.

The company is one of several businesses that send dump trucks to the two quarries along the State Road 252. Central Triaxle’s dump trucks cross that section of State Road 252 more than 50 times per day and weigh up to 73,000 pounds when full of stone from the quarry, he said.

Any detours for the trucks would about double their travel times to the quarry, he said.

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