Hugh Walton, VP over at Veltec Sports, wrote a fantastic letter to Boulder County Communications Specialist, Dan Rowland, asking the chip-sealing of Olde Stage, Cherryvale, and Nelson roads be suspended until further review. Chip-sealing renders a road far less enjoyable for cycling and there is no evidence it extends the life of the road itself. I’ll paste the letter below, at the top of which you’ll find Mr. Rowland’s contact information–feel free to politely express your opinion on the matter to him.
I saw your notice from August 13th regarding chip sealing Nelson Road, Olde Stage Road and Cherryvale next week. Here are my thoughts and I would like your response, if you don’t mind:
1. As far as I can find, there is no long-term research that proves that chip seal extends the life of paved roads. The definitive paper on chip seal, the NCHRP Synthesis 342 “Chip Seals Best Practices” paper, provides no evidence that chip seal is proven effective in lengthening the life of paved roads. It uses terms such as “believe to”, “thought to”, “suggested that” and other such terms and provides NO scientific evidence to support the conclusion of the main purposes of chip seal.
2. Most supporting papers and information on the web are provided by the contractors associated with the practice of chip seal, which can only be seen to be self serving and self promoting.
3. After riding on Boulder county, city and state roads for the past 30 years I can say anecdotally that there is no difference between the life and condition of roads either chip sealed or not. As a matter of fact, it is apparent that chip seal provides a false sense of security and hides underlying structural problems that become worse due to the idea that the responsible authority has “bought time”.
4. Chip seal, if not effective, is expensive compared to not doing it.
I’m asking that Boulder County cease chip sealing next week until such time as independent, peer-reviewed conclusive evidence that chip sealing is effective in extending pavement life can be reviewed and validated by the Boulder County Commissioners.
I will be calling the head of the Boulder County Transportation and the Boulder County Commissioners to ask for a postponement of the practice of chip sealing until such time and such evidence is provided. Otherwise, the taxpayers in general and the cyclists in particular of Boulder County cannot be assured that taxpayer funds are not being wasted.
As you know, CDOT has chip sealed Highway 36 in sections north of Boulder last week. In light of the fact that there are literally hundreds of other roads under CDOT’s (local) jurisdiction that require funds and attention more than this road, there is no good reason that I can find as to why this section of road was chip sealed. The conclusion therefore is that it was done for reasons other than technical or prioritization.
The deterioration of such roads, as you know, is caused more from underlying structural problems, shifting clay, winter freezes and the use of metal studs on winter car tires. The idea of oxidation being a cause on an 8′ thick layer of asphalt is ridiculous. Chip seal, where it could conceivably be effective, is worn out rapidly in states such as Colorado that permit metal studs anyway. There’s much more to this whole thing as well, including the completely ineffective and ultimately costly practice of tar-sealing road cracks on road shoulders.