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Jackson County, Oregon Roads
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Chip Seal Maintenance 101

What is chip sealing all about?

  • 30 June 2017
  • Author: J Domis
  • Number of views: 743
Chip Seal Maintenance 101

Have you ever wondered why we seem to take a perfectly fine paved road and appear to put a bunch of loose gravel on it?  Well….keep reading.  Chip sealing is the process of applying a layer of liquid asphalt to a roadway and then covering it up with a proper aggregate wearing course.  While there can be a few days where this process looks pretty ‘rocky’, the reality is we are performing a tried and true maintenance treatment which is extending the life of the roadway in the least expensive way possible.  In short we are getting the biggest bang for the buck.


Chip seals have been around for a long time – especially on county roads.  And at a cost of about $26,000 per mile treated compared to a traditional 2” overlay of new asphaltic concrete mix which can run over $250,000 for that same mile of treatment, the process of chip sealing is here to stay.  We currently chip seal about 70 miles of county road each summer which is about 10% of the paved county road network.  With an industry-standard service life of a chip seal being at 10 years we are on track to keep this maintenance model working well into the future.  To complete pavement overlays on these 70 miles would cost over $17 million dollars!



Clearly there are some downsides to chip sealing when comparing it to an overlay of new asphalt – the main one being the loose gravel.  Yes, sometimes bicycle riders try to find alternate routes for a while, and all traffic should drive slower for a period of time until the road gets swept off a day or two following application.  Even with those inconveniences though, the benefits far outweigh in the end.  Take speed of application for example…..at a chip seal application rate of over 300 feet per minute we can cover a lot of ground fast as compared to a typical paving operation which moves at approximately 70 feet per minute.  That means we are out of the road much more quickly – and traffic can be on their way more quickly.


This summer our chip seal program will kick off in mid-July.  Because of the time it can take to mobilize equipment from one part of the county to another distant location on the other side of the county we tend to do the majority of our chip seal work each year in a general geographic area instead of hopping all over the entire county.  This year we will focus our efforts primarily in the Shady Cove and Sams Valley areas.  When we get the chip sealing complete on roads we will then return to all these areas with a different process and apply a ‘fog seal’ over the top.  This helps bind the remaining rock to the surface just a bit better to get the maximum benefit.  Soon after, we will paint new stripes on the road and it will be good to go – ready for winter and the pavement life extended another 10 years.


If you are interested in the 2017 list of road sections to be treated please click here.  Please note this maintenance activity is very weather dependent with rain stopping us in our tracks (which is why we do it in the summer to minimize any delay).  Our plan is to have the chip sealing done by the end July, the fog sealing done by mid-September and the striping done shortly after.


If you have questions about what we do please give us a call at 541.774.8184 or send us an email.  You can also report any problems using our Report a Problem form on our website.

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