Hail ruins Florida fix but won’t dent city budget

Why was the lower part of Florida Road repaved with “chip seal?” The road was smooth and nearly brand new. But now it’s bumpy, uneven and ugly. Why did the city take a perfectly good road and make it crummy? There’s gotta be an explanation. – Dave

The Florida Road is the Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughfares, getting no respect.

Not from commuters who routinely ignore its reasonable speed limit. Not from the parade of simpletons who still have yet to grasp the concept of the roundabout.

And now you can add Mother Nature to the list of malcontents who diss Durango’s largest capital-improvement project.

All Florida Road wanted was a little TLC – one final round of pre-winter finishing touches after its fabulous $16 million makeover.

In other words, it’s the construction equivalent of applying a quick spritz of hairspray just before the guests arrive.

Instead of a primp, what happened was more along the lines of a bad Three Stooges sight gag – a stiff dousing of chilly seltzer water followed by a mushy pie to the face. But in this case, insult and injury happened on a massive scale.

The chip-seal project was scheduled as the final chapter of the Florida Road reconstruction project, said City Engineer Gregg Boysen.

“It was the end of the one-year warranty period, and the chip-seal application would extend the life of the road.”

Street construction is a pain, and the city knows it. So the local powers-that-be really strive to do projects during shoulder seasons, Boysen said.

The weekend of Sept. 21-22 seemed like a perfect time to perform routine maintenance.

But that particular weekend was neither perfect nor routine.

A gorgeous Saturday gave way to a savage Sunday, featuring lead-hued clouds, torrential rains and hail the size of canned hams.

Well, maybe not that big. Nevertheless, the storm unleashed a barrage of frozen ice balls that shredded Mrs. Action Line’s prized oakleaf hydrangea, a shrub not commonly found around these parts, perhaps because its foot-wide leaves are vulnerable to meteorological mayhem.

Mrs. Action Line, being a force of nature, was not pleased with the forces of nature.

Anyway, the oakleaf hydrangea, while pummeled and puny, should make it through the winter.

The chip seal on Florida Road was not so lucky.

When crews do chip-sealing, they apply a layer of asphalt and then spread gravel on top. The aggregate is then compressed, with 24 hours or more required to cure.

The freak Sunday storm hit before the oil had time to set up. Then came the mud.

Oh, the mud.

Huge amounts of gooey slop gushed off of the sodden shale hillsides flanking Florida Road. What a disgusting mess.

“We didn’t expect the mud, or that it would be so bad,” Boysen said.

Mudflows made the road impassible, so the city quickly dispatched heavy equipment to clear the despoiled thoroughfare.

Front-end loaders scooped off the muck – and along with it most of the just-applied gravel. Not that the gravel was attached to the road, thanks to the rain.

So what’s a good municipality to do? Try, try again – right?

Maybe in a couple months. The city has run out of time.

“We had a small window to get the project done, and temperatures are now too cold,” Boysen lamented.

“Florida Road will be bumpy through winter and we’ll redo it in the spring,” he added.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Ours is the contractor’s warranty. It ensures Florida Road will be completed to the city’s satisfaction and any deficiencies fixed for free within a set time period.

Because of unanticipated foul weather, the city got bailed out.

Thus, when it comes to Florida Road, we can say “hail’s bails.”

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you can explain why “hail” is not greeted with enthusiasm.

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