Lancaster County chip sealing roads to protect against potholes

A truck drives down 148th St., shortly after Lancaster County chip sealed the road. (Source:...
A truck drives down 148th St., shortly after Lancaster County chip sealed the road. (Source: Mackenzie Huck)(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Sep. 8, 2019 at 8:38 PM CDT
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For the first time, Lancaster County is chip sealing some roads. That process involves laying down tar, and then putting quartzite down to create a seal over the asphalt.

But the chip sealing has left several drivers with chips in their windshield.

"You can just hear and feel it flying," said Travis Isaacs, who lives on 148th St.

Isaacs drives down 148th St. every day. But while the county is chip sealing, he says he'll be finding an alternate route to drop off his kids in Waverly.

"I made two trips to Waverly, and ended up with three rock chips in my windshield," Isaacs said. "I talked to my sister, she has one. And my friend has one. There's a whole Facebook group of people adding their names, saying 'I have one today.'"

Isaacs says it will cost him nearly $100 to fix his windshield. He's started avoiding roads with loose gravel, doubling his commute times.

This is the first time the county is chip sealing, and Lancaster County Engineer Pam Dingman says drivers may not be handling the new conditions well.

"Unfortunately this process does create some waste that goes to the sides of the roads," Dingman said. "So slowing down and making sure you stay on the paved surface so you have a lesser chance of throwing rocks into oncoming traffic."

People who live in the area say 148th St. was still in good condition when the county decided to fix it, and question the use of funding.

"The concern is, why are they spending money to do this to a perfectly good road when we have 20 bridges that are currently closed?" Isaacs said.

Dingman says she's trying to do both, but there's an issue with resources.

"The reality is designing and permitting in addition to finding contractors to do these bridges and box culverts is, they're all in very short supply right now," Dingman said.

At a time when the county budget for fixing roads is short nearly $200 million, Dingman says she is constantly balancing fixing damaged roads and bridges, and protecting those that are in good condition.

"This is like putting fluoride on your teeth," Dingman said. "You can't just wait until you get a cavity. You have to do some preventative work as well. Right now, we're really focusing on our long game. How do we stabilize our asphalt and our bridges so we don't end up with closed bridges because the asphalt slabs are failing."

Dingman says some of the bridges that are closed should be re-opened in the next few weeks, and gravel from chip sealing should settle and stop hitting people's windshields in the next few days.