CHOKEPOINTS

Small Washington cities are paving a new way to road preservation

May 31, 2016, 6:46 AM | Updated: Jun 30, 2016, 12:21 pm
road, Seattle, Washington...
The City of Burien is using a road preservation technique known as slurry seal to reduce costs and cut down on the need to repave. (WSDOT)
(WSDOT)

You don’t have to drive very far to realize that the roads in Western Washington are in bad shape. There just hasn’t been the money to maintain many of them, much less repair them.

But smaller cities around the region are using new techniques to keep their roads smooth without going into the red.

Repaving a road is a very costly endeavour. It’s usually only done after the road has degraded. But what if you could keep that from happening and push off paving indefinitely?

“You have to have a real robust toolbox,” City of Burien spokesperson Katie Whittier Trefry said. “You can’t just look at a road and say, ‘We’re going to pave that in ten years.’ You have to think about what you can do this year, what can we do next year, or what if we don’t have to repave it in ten years.”

Burien began using a road preservation technique known as slurry seal. It’s like a chip seal project, but it doesn’t use hard-packed gravel or rock. It uses a glaze-like mixture of asphalt that simply covers the road.

“We introduced the program last year, as a pilot project,” Trefry said. “Kirkland has been using it for years so we took a page out of their playbook to apply it here.”

The process is simple. Fill the cracks, cover them with the slurry seal, and you’ve got a new road.

“We can add the slurry seal right now and get another ten years out of [the road],” Trefry said. “It’s taking a pretty good road right now and making it as good as we possibly can, and keeping it in that condition, at a fraction of the cost.”

Burien will begin its slurry seal projects in late July or August. Crews need hot, dry weather for this treatment to be successful.

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Small Washington cities are paving a new way to road preservation