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June 2014

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our June 2014 newsletter. This month we talk about our paving projects and chip seals.

As always, if you have any questions on items in this newsletter, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Give me a call at (509) 324-6010 or drop me an e-mail at: metcalk@wsdot.wa.gov.

Keith Metcalf
Regional Administrator
WSDOT Eastern Region

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Pavement preservation funding levels

As I mentioned last month, our pavement preservation program is steadily dwindling. Over the next two budget biennia, the statewide preservation funds will shrink by 52%.

Here in our seven-county region, after this construction season is complete, we will still have a paving backlog of about $75 million. As we discuss below, we have a reasonably sized asphalt paving program this season, but our chip seal mileage is significantly smaller. We are sealing 80 miles of highway this year, down from 105 in 2013 and 150 in 2012.

Our future paving program shows significantly fewer paving projects in the next two biennia based on current revenue. This will result in drivers seeing (and feeling) a noticeable continuing decline in the quality of our highway system.

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High profile paving projects underway or starting soon

With summer weather bringing construction, our asphalt paving projects are underway or getting ready to start.

Four major projects are already under construction. We have two jobs on Interstate 90 west of Spokane, one in Adams County stretching from the Grant/Adams County border to the SR 21 Interchange; the other is closer to Spokane, extending from the Lincoln/Spokane County line to the Salnave Road/SR 902 Interchange. On US 2, a paving project is underway from the Espanola/Wood Road intersection, through Airway Heights, and ending at Interstate 90. That job includes installation of a new traffic signal system at the Flint Road intersection. Also just getting underway is a project on SR 904, from Cheney to I-90 at Four Lakes.

Waiting in the wings are two more big paving jobs. We’ll be resurfacing Interstate 90 from the Barker Road Interchange to the Idaho border. That work should get started shortly after the July 4th holiday weekend. Another project on US 2 is up north of Spokane. That highway will be resurfaced from the vicinity of Westwood Road to the Spokane/Pend Oreille County line.

For the most part, all of these jobs consist of grinding off the top layer of pavement then resurfacing with a layer of hot mix asphalt.
Keeping the highways open and traffic moving during construction is always a challenge. In the Spokane metro area, we have changed our construction period to mostly evenings and overnight hours to reduce the impacts to drivers. It is important to note that, day or night, when crews are working on highways with only two lanes, single-lane alternating traffic will be directed through the work zone using flaggers and/or pilot cars. Drivers should expect delays and should add extra time for their travels. Asphalt paving work generally requires dry conditions so work days and hours are flexible, depending on weather.

Some of these paving jobs also include reductions in the posted legal speed limit in the work zone. Drivers need to pay particularly close attention to all speed limit signage as some of these changes are only in effect during work hours or when grooved surfaces are present. As always, please help keep everyone safe by driving responsibly. Distracted or impaired drivers increase the danger to workers that are working in very close proximity to traffic.

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Chip Seals preserve Eastern Region highways

Chip Seals (or seal coating, BST, Bituminous Surface Treatment) is the application of a special protective wearing surface to an existing pavement. This process is used on Eastern Region highway sections that have a lower traffic count and serve some of the more rural areas.
The chip seal process does just what its name implies-it seals the roadway surface with a layer of “chips” or gravel with an asphalt mixture.
The process fills and seals cracks of the old pavement. This keeps water from penetrating the road structure on paved surfaces and prevents cracking and potholes. It also seals the pavement surface, minimizing the effects of aging and provides a highly skid-resistant surface, particularly on wet pavements.

Prior to the highway being sealed, WSDOT Maintenance crews will inspect the roadway and repair any damage to the surface. Unlike a full pavement overlay, the chip seal process does not add any structural integrity to the highway. A BST treatment does seal the roadway and help protect it from further damage while renewing the driving surface, including renewed surface friction. Any structural repairs such as patching or grade correction must be made prior to sealing. Chip-sealing is a multi-step process, and is usually scheduled as crews and weather permits. In many cases the chip seal application is also preceded by application of a special product to fill the larger cracks. There can be several days, or a few weeks, between each step. For a broader description of our chip seal process, check out this web page link.

The cost of chip seals is 15 to 20 percent of the cost of pavement overlays. Chip seals are normally done on about a six to eight year cycle, depending on the condition of the surface.

In 2014, we will chip-seal about 80 miles of highways in our Region (down from 105 in 2013 and 150 in 2012). One change drivers will notice is chip-sealing on higher volume roads. Because of the significantly reduced pavement preservation budgets, chip-sealing is being used to extend the life of existing pavement, allowing us to postpone the higher cost of full, hot mix asphalt paving. One example of this in 2014 is US 195, from Pullman south to Colton. Another similar section this year is on US 2 between Davenport and Wilbur in Lincoln County.
For a full list of our chip seal work this year, go to our 2014 chip seal project web page.