Go out to your car in the driveway, turn on the radio, and notice how loud it is.
It’s turned up when you’re driving to overcome the road noise.
Drivers plying U.S. Highway 59 between Berclair and Victoria are often having to crank the knob up all the way up because of the new paving.
Late last month, the Texas Department of Transportation spent a few days repairing the road by applying what is called seal coat, a mixture of aggregate and asphalt.
“What you’re hearing is the sound of safety,” says TxDOT spokesman, Rickey Dailey.
The rough pavement raises the speed at which hydroplaning occurs.
For TxDOT, it’s a trade-off between safety and expense.
Road repair comes in three parts. As soon as cracks appear in pavement, road crews apply tar to seal the cracks.
The goal is to prevent moisture from seeping into the base. Water accumulating on the highway base leads to potholes. The drier the pavement, the longer it lasts.
When conditions worsen, the next step is to overlay the road with seal coat.
“This is a maintenance stage for the road,” Dailey says.
Eventually, the pavement is so deteriorated that the road requires crews to remove the existing pavement, add new asphalt, then overlay it with hot mix. The result, for drivers, is a smooth highway that is significantly quieter, but more prone to hydroplaning.
Seal coating, then, is a stop-gap measure to prolong the life of the pavement.
And, it’s quicker and cheaper, both in manpower and material.
A 20-man TxDOT crew can seal coat 20 miles of highway in a day. But re-doing the same stretch of road with overlay takes the same crew about two months.
“It costs about $450,000 per mile to mill, repair and overlay a section of highway,” Dailey says. “That includes the cost of stripping, barricades and mobilization.”
Applying that same mile with sealcoat costs $60,000 — an 87 percent saving.
“Seal coating only helps keep water from entering the base material under the read surface,” Dailey says. “A hot mix surface and a seal-coated surface both will deteriorate equally if the base was not originally designed to carry the weight and volume of traffic that it is experiencing.”
On U.S. 59, radios will be playing a lot louder in the foreseeable future.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.