What's the Deal With Chip Seals?

 06/01/2017 - 13:00
Washtenaw County residents and commuters will soon see “Loose Stones – 35 mph” signs on various county roadways. These signs indicate that a road was recently chip sealed. 

Chip sealing is an important component in WCRC’s efforts to maintain their 1,649-mile road network. When applied at the right time, a chip seal treatment can extend the lifespan of a road and help keep potholes at bay. This summer WCRC will chip seal 60 miles of roadway, 30 miles of which are funded by the four-year road and non-motorized path millage.

Chip seals prevent potholes and help roads last longer.

Similar to how one might seal their driveway or patio deck, WCRC applies chip seals to roads that are in good to fair condition to extend their lifespan and protect the road from the wear and tear of vehicles, sun damage, and Michigan’s freeze/thaw cycles which produce cracks and lead to potholes. A typical chip seal treatment will extend the service life of a road by three to seven years.

Chip seals are low-cost and allow WCRC to maintain more miles of road annually.

Chip sealing costs a fraction of the price to rebuild a deteriorated road. A chip seal costs approximately $25,000 per mile, compared to approximately $300,000 per mile to pulverize and repave a road in poor condition. While chip sealing allows WCRC to maintain more miles of road at a lower cost, it is important to note that chip seals are only a surface treatment. A chip seal will not fill potholes or fix existing bumps in the road. For this reason, it is important to apply a chip seal before the deterioration happens.

How does a chip seal application work?

A thin film of heated liquid asphalt is sprayed onto the road surface, followed immediately by the placement of small aggregate/stones (“chips”). The chips are then embedded into the liquid asphalt with rollers. Once the chip seal application has an opportunity to settle and compact, the excess stone is swept off the road surface. Traffic can travel on the road approximately 15 minutes after the chip seal treatment is applied, but it is important that motorists do not exceed 35 mph!

Will the loose stones damage my car?

Chip sealed roads are safe to drive on, but it is important that motorists do not exceed 35 mph. Driving 35 mph or less will allow the chip seal to settle and prevent loose stones from kicking up. While a freshly chip sealed road appears course, the stones will further compact into the road surface over time and result in a smoother road surface.

To learn more about WCRC’s 2017 construction projects, visit: wcroads.org/road-work-construction/projects/

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