Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 17, 2013

Streets to get a smooth coating

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners approved spending more than $450,000 to smooth about 40 blocks of city streets with a new coat of asphalt.

Cass Street will see significant attention, but some residents of that heavily traveled, north-south artery question what they suspect will be a short-term fix and won’t address their traffic concerns. City officials plan to mill Cass Street’s surface and cover it with a two-inch layer of asphalt from Eighth Street to Fourteenth Street.

Other city streets will receive ultra-thin asphalt overlays on blocks scattered throughout the city. Work should begin in August because the city needs warm weather to lay the thin, especially sticky asphalt.

“We want to get the work done in August to assure we have a quality project,” said Tim Lodge, city engineer. “But it’s a very quick turn-around. It shouldn’t take more than two or three weeks total.”

Cass Street residents said they will appreciate a traffic reduction, even if just for a week or two, but several said the street needs more than a temporary upgrade.

“They need to do something because it’s in pretty bad shape,” said resident Richard Buckley. “With the amount of traffic on it, why don’t they just go ahead and spend the money to do it right.”

Ron VanWingerden said neighborhood residents would rather see something more dramatic, perhaps landscaping, bike lanes and features that could slow traffic. He noted there may also be a downside to Cass improvements.

“We’d like to see fewer cars and I’m afraid if they make it too smooth that might invite more traffic,” VanWingerden said.

City crews already are grinding pothole patches to ensure the new coatings will create smooth roadway for more than four miles of streets. The paving should extend the lives of most streets by five to seven years, Lodge said. The process is considered preventative maintenance to seal out moisture and reduce the need for pothole patching.

“We are spending tens of thousands of dollars on pothole patching,” Lodge said. “You don’t like doing it because it’s very expensive and it doesn’t last.”

Streets chosen for the treatment received a road condition rating of four or five, which translates to the border between poor and fair. Lodge said officials considered applying pavement overlays to streets rated at level three, but decided to wait to determine how the overlay holds over the winter. The effort marks the city’s first stab at applying ultra-thin asphalt overlays.

Some city streets are too far gone for an overlay and will be added to next year’s reconstruction list.

But Lodge said project lists and plans can and do change, depending on winter’s toll.

“We have to be adaptable,” Lodge said. “If it freezes and thaws like it did last winter, it’s devastating to the roads.”