Chip Seal!?! These Boys Say No!!!

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted on Guilford Patch August 19, 2013. The story was prompted by a post to the Guilford Facebook page that included a visually interesting picture of two boys mounting a protest against town government. Their post generated a conversation. So I pulled it over to Guilford Patch to report on it and continue the conversation. I later followed up with another story.

These two boys say no to chip sealing on Little Meadow Road in Guilford, CT. Photo Credit: Tom Ghoreyeb

Two young boys, one wearing a bike helmet, and the other one wearing a very determined look on his face, have mounted a protest against chip seal on Little Meadow Road in Guilford.

Little Meadow Road was one of 18 streets in town chip sealed in July by the town of Guilford.

Chip seal is a relatively cost effective way to protect low-traffic roads with a surface that covers the underlying pavement with a skid-proof layer. Applied correctly, it can reduce and eliminate cracks in hot weather when the heat causes the pavement to flow together, and it can also reduce the chance of dangerous black ice in the winter.

Still, the surface, which can be sticky and stone-studded, is extremely unpopular with walkers, bike riders, skate boarders, and, clearly, these two residents of Little Meadow Road.

The surface can lead to tar-covered shoes, tire blow outs, and conditions that feel unsafe for bike riders and skate boarders. Since roads are designed for people, not just cars, chip sealed roads can reduce the quality of life in neighborhoods were people like to walk and where bikes and skate boards are used as often, or more often, than cars.

Tom Ghoreyeb, who posted the picture of the two young protesters on the Guilford Patch Facebook page said the chip sealing has ruined the road for walkers, bikers, and people in cars on Little Meadow Road.

“It causes premature tire wear and makes for worse gas mileage. Somebody falls and gets hurt on their bicycle or motorcycle, they could potentially sue the town for creating hazardous road conditions,” Gyoreyeb said. “My wife has oily tar stuck to the bottom of her new walking shoes. The boys are upset because they can’t ride their bikes in the circle as easily.”

His post generated some additional comments from town residents.

Melissa Reiss said her son was angry when they did their road. Bobbi Valliere said chip seal is “horrible” and creates long-term problems.

“We had four flat tires after it was done on our street,” she said. “We can’t ride bikes or even push a stroller. Ours was done three years ago and it is still bad. The tar under the chip seal stuck to out shoes, so couldn’t even go for a walk. Good luck! Keep protesting!!”

Tracy Hastings Graves also encouraged the boys to continue with their protest. “Nice to see young boys attempting to make a change!” Graves said. “I do believe Guilford Patch should explain why these boys are protesting and to help spread the word of why they are protesting! Great job boys!”

Valerie Reynolds Carubia said “Huckleberry Court was done a while ago and made much worse as well.”

Beth Gilbert agreed.

“YUP! I think ours was done about three years ago and we still get tar on everything! It’s awful. One trip down Little Meadow yesterday and I have tar on my nice white car. I’m with these boys!” Gilbert said.

Sarah Woodring Cooper said their road was chip sealed last year, and that it created problems over the winter as well.

“The snow plows pushed all the stones one to three feet into everyone’s yards,” she said, adding that it was a “huge mess.”

Judith S. Loukides said chip sealing does have one advantage over other options, and that is the low cost.

“The town announced this months ago. It’s cheaper than repaving,” she said. Still, she added, it is less than ideal for bikes and skateboards. “Cyclists can’t ride on it until the tar dries and the piles of chips drift off the sides. My husband has blown a tire on a chip-sealed road, too.”

Ghoreyeb, who posted the picture of the protesters, wanted to know who decided to go with the chip seal.

“I thought Guilford progressed beyond gravel roads 100 years ago,” he said. “It’s a quality-of-life issue.”

A call to the Guilford Highway Department seeking answers to some of the questions about chip seal, including how roads are selected, was referred to the town’s Building and Engineering Department. A call to the Guilford’s Building and Engineering Department Monday morning went into voice mail, and the recorded message said do not leave a message for the building department, but to call back at another time.

Here are the comments from the Guilford Patch website story:

Heide Mueller-Hatton August 19, 2013 at 06:21 AM
I’d be curious to hear how the town determines which roads are “low-traffic.” I live on North Madison Rd. and it is NOT low-traffic, but the town did chip-seal resurfacing on it last year. It was a nightmare for months. Non-stop speeding cars making gravel fly tens of yards in every direction. If I went out to check my mail and a car started heading my way, I had to run for my life back to the house, for fear of being hailed by shrapnel-like gravel!
Pem McNerney August 19, 2013 at 08:16 AM
That’s bad. I just put a couple of calls into town hall. There is a meeting this morning, but when I get some calls back I will ask about how roads were picked and what town residents can do if they are concerned. I think there are probably some good reasons why the highway department decided to go this way, but the level of dissatisfaction with the chip seal also seems pretty high on some roads. As soon as I find out more, I will post the information.
Pem McNerney August 19, 2013 at 09:12 AM
I just had a good talk with Jim Portley, the town engineer, will be doing a story about what we discussed. But he asked for a little patience for the roads that were just chip sealed. The sweeper will be coming through starting next Monday and should take away some of the excess rock, improving conditions. If conditions do not improve and you continue to have concerns, he wants to hear from you. I’ll post the contact info in the story and will post the link here. Stay tuned.
Sam Gerritz August 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM
I understand that all infrastructure decisions eventually come down to money, but why do we keep making these decisions based on the needs of cars without considering the impact on pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders? The cars are responsible for all the damage to the roads, so why shouldn’t we make them pay for repaving the road versus going with a cheap, temporary repair that ruins the road for everyone else?
Edward August 21, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Out road was chip sealed over a year ago. It has been miserable, there are several point where during heat of summer trucks have actually scraped off the covering. I was walking with my 4 year old and a minor stub of the toe and she had lacerations on her knee and nose, which would have been just a brush off on standard asphalt. Riding kids bikes is a pain, and any minor fall would be serious. It has really detracted from enjoyment of a quieter road. Terrible choice for any residential neighborhood with kids.

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