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Why is chip sealing roads so popular?

It seems like every major roadway in the valley has been chip-sealed in the past month. Why is this method of road repair so popular in our region this summer?

— Mike G.

Well, Mike, chip sealing hasn’t just become popular in this area this summer. In fact, it has been widely used in roads throughout the county for many years.

It is also a popular method to repair roads throughout the country.

Why is it so popular? Cost.

Chip-sealing costs about $25,000 a mile versus new asphalt at $260,000 a mile. That allows transportation officials to cover many more miles of road in a given season.

This summer Jackson County crews are repairing 89.1 miles of roads with chip seal, which involves spreading small rocks, roughly 3/8-inch in diameter, onto a roadway covered in liquid asphalt. The rocks are rolled into place and vehicles further compress the rocks into the asphalt over a week or more before another layer of liquid asphalt is rolled out.

The downside is the tiny rocks turn the roadway into gravel for a few days until the rock seats into the roadway. These tiny rocks can damage vehicles, particularly if someone is driving above 30 mph.

Just to warn you, Mike, chip-sealing will be done for many more summers to come unless someone invents a cheaper method of paving roads.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.