What a difference a summer makes. When school was letting out back on June 1, I was incensed about the new chip-seal paving job on the road that links our house with the kids’ school.
And I wasn’t the only one: three school bus windows got cracked by airborne stones during the paving process, according to a bus driver I know.
At the time, I was irritated that the powers that be were cutting costs at the expense of drivers, cyclists and school systems, all of whom would now be replacing tires (not to mention windshields) much more quickly after driving on that sandpaper coating.
Now, as the kids head back to school today (yes, way too early, don’t even get me started on that one), my perspective has changed somewhat.
I’ve been riding my bike more this summer than I have in years, and somewhere along the way I got used to the road – probably because the state road I turn onto most frequently already had a chip-seal job from 3-4 years ago.
That doesn’t mean I like it. But from what I’ve read, chip-sealing costs anywhere from $9,000-15,000 per mile, while those smooth asphalt paving jobs we all got used to in the good old days cost at least $200,000 a mile (and one story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put the figure at a startling $466,000.)
How that balances out with shorter lifespans of tires and windshields, I can’t say. And somebody – are there any real journalists left out there? I certainly can’t make that claim these days – really ought to look at those numbers and start a discussion on the individual costs versus the costs to community, state and nation.
Still, I know the tide has turned, at least in my own mind, when every time I drive past a school parking lot paved with glossy black asphalt I find myself thinking, “What a colossal waste of money! Why didn’t they just do a chip-seal job on that?”