Chesterton Tribune



County Highway Department proposes return to in-house chip and seal

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The Porter County Highway Department has proposed that the County acquire the equipment necessary to chip and seal County roads without hiring an outside contractor in a purchase that would total $750,000.

Highway Department Supervisor Rich Sexton and Assistant Supervisor Jim Polarek brought the presentation before the Porter County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday. Sexton reported that Porter County used to do its own chip and seal on County Roads, but a previous administration opted to move toward using contractors when the equipment started to reach end of life rather than replacing it.

Sexton was prepared to show return on investment. “This equipment’s eventually gonna pay for itself,” he said, adding that the County would recoup its expenditure on new equipment in six years or less just by not having to pay contractors for road preservation.

With this purchase, the timeline, including start and end dates, of chip and seal is up to the County rather than at the convenience of a contractor, and it allows for better quality control, according to Sexton.

Chip and sealed roads have a lifetime of five years, Polarek said. Paving over a chip and seal road requires going back to the base and establishing a stronger foundation for the road. Sexton said this equipment would also allow the Highway Department to add to the base of the roads.

To be self-sufficient for chip and seal, the County would need a new asphalt zipper and chip spreader. Sexton threw in a mower that fits under guardrails for more efficient maintenance, especially on bridges, where he says some of his employees have to use individual weed eaters.

The asphalt zipper mounts on a front loader, which the County already has one of in each district. The asphalt zipper also allows for the addition of lime stabilization to form a harder and more durable road. Sexton said the use of the asphalt zipper by an outside contractor cost $26,000 last year, and adding lime stabilization would have required the intervention of yet another company. The last chip spreader the County owned was a 1989 model. Sexton reports that Porter County spent $91,017.24 to preserve 22.56 miles of road this year.

Money from the bridge fund would contribute to the purchase of the guardrail mower. Sexton also thinks that County-done chip and sealing uses fuel tax dollars more efficiently. Polarek said the Highway Department receives a share of federal funding each month, and even though he and Sexton have budgeted to keep a reserve of around $200,000 in the Highway Department’s coffers at all times, there will be enough money to fund the purchase. At the time of the meeting, they asked for an additional appropriation to earmark $750,000 for the chip and seal equipment, which the Board approved.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said, “This is an investment in ourselves. Money that we already have, it’s a no brainer.” Blaney also noted that paving inconveniences residents, and not needing a contractor can reduce construction time. Sexton said his plan is to do 100 miles of road preservation next year and going forward, but his crews won’t be in one place long.

Sexton says Newton County takes advantage of having chip and seal equipment by starting as soon as possible, and Porter County can do the same. “As soon as the threat of a heavy freeze is gone, they’re out doing their roads.” Sexton says some roads could be done in four days from start to finish.

“We’re at the mercy of the subcontractors now. This way, we’re being proactive,” Good said, noting the Department would also have the freedom to widen the road and deepen the base. Good added, “If we have 816 miles of road in this County unincorporated, I think we need to be in this business,” Good said.

Traffic Study

The Board also approved a traffic study for U.S. 6 between Meridian Road and Calumet Avenue. Good clarified that this stretch is the last section where U.S. 6 is a two-lane road in Porter County, starting by Sunset Hill Farm County Park and passing Ind. 49 and the hospital.

The traffic study is intended to convince state representatives, who maintain U.S. 6, that that section of road should be widened. Under the five-year plan for that area, the state has not listed widening that section. Having analytics will help convince them.

The Board approved a contract with American Structurepoint for $22,120 for the traffic study. Good noted that the Highway Department can conduct its own traffic studies, but the County has to bring in an outside firm that the state trusts for the results to have any pull.

Good said, “It’s becoming a very, very busy corridor, so we need to get some relief up there,” while Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, pointed out that the two-lane road limits economic growth by limiting further development near the hospital.



Posted 8/17/2018




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