THE MAYOR'S REPORT: Keeping roads in good shape

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

So it’s the big day as I write this report! Oops ... do I mean Valentine’s Day (Monday) or Super Bowl (Sunday)? OK ... let’s make that plural…”big days.” It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the light snow that fell overnight as my view looks at South Allison Street and the South Ridge Avenue hill and beautiful barn at Allison-Antrim Museum. The family room is nice and warm by the fireplace. The grandchildren spent last night for a big sleepover so a little nap felt pretty good earlier. The big game is fast approaching! Connecticut girls are going to beat Marquette in basketball with two minutes left. I hope the Super Bowl is a good game and hope the commercials are even better!

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

I just warmed up a cup of coffee, so join me as I take-off from Sharon Baumbaugh’s wonderful articles in “History’s Echoes; Roads, Streets, & Alleys.” I’ve shared these with some of my road superintendent buddies in Adams County.

I’ll explain today’s Greencastle-Antrim road systems and how they are funded (in my next writing), the importance of good roadways, and the types of road surfaces. Greencastle is responsible for 15.65 miles of streets not including the alleys. PennDOT is responsible for 5.62 miles of streets in town …Antrim Way, Baltimore Street, Center Square, South Carlisle Street, South Washington Street and North Allison Street. Could you imagine what it would have been like living here in the mid-1950s when Antrim Way was being built as a “bypass?” A second railroad bridge and highline had to be built at the south end as South Carlisle Street continued as the Williamsport Pike. All of that had to be re-engineered along with the storm-water management system that was needed from the newly created road surface run-off. The same was true in the early 1960s as Interstate-81 was built. Local children would ride their bicycles on this “interstate highway” while it was being built.

Meanwhile, Antrim Township is responsible for 113 miles of Township roads while PennDOT has 80.29 miles of roadways that include I-81, Routes 11 and 16, and several other secondary roads. As indicated in Sharon’s articles, townships elected “road supervisors” that were responsible for certain sections of municipal roads.

Coming to town: Farm Market and Food Truck Friday will be held in Greencastle monthly June to October

Coming in August: Greencastle's 240th anniversary celebrated with Allison's Tavern on Old Home Week badge

Growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s I still remember riding on “dirt roads” in my parents' vehicles or on my bicycle. Many parts of Pennsylvania township roads are still dirt and stone in rural areas. Many states and counties have dirt roads. It’s important to keep these rural roads maintained and properly graded for storm-water run-off and safety. Modern road graders are used to accomplish this. Nearly 100 years ago, municipalities used graders for the same purpose. My grandmother’s farm in Western Maryland had a dirt road until the 1970s when the county started “tar and chipping” treatment. Prior to that, the county would “oil” in front of the farm house to keep the dust down.

This 1926 Russell Hi-Way Patrol No-3 was purchased new by Highland Township in Adams County, where the antique grader is now on display.

So what road surface do you want to apply to a project? Good question. Some very important factors are: What can the municipality afford? How well built is the sub-base (very important)? What types of vehicles and vehicle weight will be driven on the road? What is the average daily traffic (ADT) and future ADT projections? How will the storm water be removed and at what grade will the road or street be engineered to accomplish this? What is the life expectancy of the surface?

Streets with curbing typically have hot mix asphalt applied known as super pave. Prior to that, all underground utility work is reviewed and upgraded as needed and the sub-base (various stone sizes) inspected and replaced to handle the weight and volume of vehicles. Storm water management is also very important with appropriate curbing and piping to expeditiously remove the surface water. It helps to have an underground piping system that can handle the volume so as not to create a hydraulic overload and more issues downstream.

It’s important to keep good roads and streets just that “good!”  It is very expensive to completely re-construct a road or street that has lost its sub-base and paving. It needs to be completely removed and re-built or use a system known as “reclaiming” where the sub-base is inspected with a series of core-borings. New stone is actually placed on the existing road surface and a huge grinding machine mills and mixes the current street materials with the stone to create a solid, new sub-surface. This is then graded and rolled with possibly cement type additives to strengthen the sub-base. Then, within days, the road is ready for a new surface application. If the sub-base needs structure and the funds just are not there, municipalities may use a geotextile matting material  to strengthen the sub-base prior to paving or re-paving.

Oh, don’t forget concrete for roads. Remember when I-81 and portions of Route 11 were concrete? This lasts a long time, takes the weight, however, is very expensive. West Baltimore Street under the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge is concrete as this section cannot be repaved and which would reduce the height clearance. Another road paving application that is rarely used any more is a cold mix asphalt known as motor paving. This used to be popular for rural roads due to its cost effectiveness and elasticity (able to move without breaking off). This surface did require a tar and chip application every five years.

If streets are in good condition, a sealing material known as ralumac micro-asphalt surface or nova chip may be applied. It gives an appearance of repaving with a life expectancy of 10 years (more or less) and is dust free. Oh, yes ... don’t forget about tar and chip surface treatment known as seal coating. This remains a cost effective rural road treatment due to the elasticity and use of the roads by agricultural equipment. Some municipalities spray a fog seal over the chipped stones a few weeks later to seal the system and give it a couple extra years of wear. Modern tar and chip application systems use much less stone chips than the former system where an employee would literally ride on the back of a dump truck and apply the stone, opening the door of the dump bed and applying it to the fresh oil on the road surface (temple spreading). Now, a motorized chip paver is used ... thank goodness. Greencastle used to use this product for its alleys. Fortunately, that practice was stopped many years ago.

So what funds are used by municipalities to pay for road maintenance? I’m sure you’re familiar with the gasoline tax. Stay tuned as I’ll write about “restricted” funding for roads, streets, and their maintenance along with future funding recommendations. Meanwhile, the sun is going down. Too cold to sit on the porch! So we’ll just await the start of the big game. It’s a beautiful sunset. We are certainly blessed.