Regarding CDOT’s “improvement project” on U.S. Highway 550 through town: How does grinding down the road surface “prolong the life” of pavement? Also, the project was supposed to get rid of “ghost lines,” the old markings on the highway. But the lines are still there. It’s confusing. Six million bucks for this and couple of bike lanes? Sign us, Road Ragers
It’s going to be a long, hot summer, so we all need to just chill out.
As Mrs. Action Line admonishes anyone with angst: “Dude ... time to do some alternate nostril breathing.”
Rest assured, the constant din of construction will end and the cone zones will go away.
And not a moment too soon.
It was getting darn near impossible to hear train whistles blasting, rafters screaming after every splash, garage bands playing bad “Journey” cover tunes in the park, the roar of overcompensating motorcycles and semi-truck drivers ignoring the “No Engine Brakes” signs on the edge of town.
It’s disquieting to not hear Durango’s cacophony.
Anyway, it’s back to the grind for Action Line, who needed to get some hard facts about etching cement.
Instead of hitting the pavement, Action Line called our good friend, CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes, who offered concrete proof of the project’s merits.
The first Big Thing, according to Lisa, is the age of the road. It’s 27 years old. “The average lifespan of a concrete road is 30 years,” she said, inviting everyone to do the math.
If the highway through town were to be replaced, initial low-end estimates are $65 million for a massive reconstruction project that would span multiple years.
Grinding the top surface typically adds 15 to 20 years of life, Lisa said. It only cost $6 million and takes just a couple months.
“As a road ages, the area where tires contact the road will eventually wear a channel in the pavement, even in something as hard as concrete,” Lisa said. “Think of the constant traffic, vehicles with chains or studded tires, and heavy trucks.”
“Then there are the slabs of concrete themselves. You hear ‘ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk’ as you drive across them,” she said.
“That sets up something called dynamic loading, and it’s similar to how washboarding happens on dirt roads. It’s not as drastic as on dirt roads, but it’s there and the bumps only gets worse over time.”
Here’s where grinding helps.
“The machines with huge diamond-blades act like a plane to even the surface and offer a smoother ride. The grooves they cut will also help restore skid resistance.”
As for the “ghost markings,” not all of the old stripes could be exorcised entirely, as they were embedded too deeply in the road.
If CDOT contractors were to gouge out the most entrenched markings, it would put ruts in the road, which would defeat the purpose of grinding.
Lisa promised that the ghost stripes will fade over time.
“So we should consider the highway to be a fine wine that needs to be aged,” Action Line suggested.
“No one’s going to buy it. But thanks,” Lisa said with a chuckle.
In any case, the new high-contrast striping will feature raised reflective beads for better visibility.
“We’re adding ‘bling’ to your daily commute,” she added.
Meanwhile, if you hear grinding at night, don’t call CDOT. Call a dentist.
It’s your teeth.
Grinding will help highways, but it won’t prolong the life of one’s molars.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you think it’s groovy having all those lines ground in the highway.