New technique could ease road woes

Published 7:53 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Chilton County Road Department tried a new technique, called "fogging," on County Road 85.

A new technique could be a boon for Chilton County’s contentious road system.

“Fogging,” which is the process of applying a synthetic material on top of a newly paved road, was tried recently on County Road 85, near the Chilton County Airport.

If the technique proves successful, it could save the county a lot of money each year while providing residents with smoother, more attractive driving surfaces.

“It is a process that we think can work,” county road Engineer Tony Wearren said.

Because of the cost involved, the county paves its roads using the “chip seal” method, as opposed to the more expensive asphalt used on state highways and interstates.

County workers would lay down a coating of tar, spread rock on top of it, then another layer of tar and a final layer of rock.

Wearren said the problem is that the “tar and gravel” method is not meant for roads with high traffic, or heavy loads, and even under the best of circumstances the surface lasts only 10-15 years.

“The general problem is the stone turns loose,” Wearren said. “Then water comes in and fills the spaces. Once water gets the base material wet, that’s where the potholes come from.”

Fogging entails spreading a rubber-like material, which is composed of 75 percent water, over the top of the road. The material helps hold the stone in place and acts as a barrier to rainwater working its way to the base of the road.

Another benefit is that fogging turns the road black, almost like asphalt, making stripes on the road easier to see.

“We’re going to study it and see if it’s a good option for us,” Wearren said.

He said it would be possible to have an idea about how County Road 85 will hold up after the winter.

Fogging could save the county money because it would lengthen a road’s lifespan.

Wearren said it costs about $14,500 per mile to resurface a road and about $1,500 per mile to fog a road, and that’s just considering material. As far as labor, a crew is needed for resurfacing, while fogging can be done with one worker and one truck, and in a fraction of the time.

No new equipment was needed to fog County Road 85. The material can be applied using the same truck used to put down tar.

“Fogging would only last so long, and we don’t know how long,” Wearren said. “But it would be so much cheaper to go back and re-fog a road than it would be to go back and resurface a road. Hopefully, it will give us a longer life.”