City of Lincoln attempts to prolong life of roads with new sealant

July 23, 2018, 4:39 a.m. ·

The city of Lincoln is taking a preventative approach to potholes this summer.

The city is covering 13 arterial streets in a sealant that will prevent cracking and potholes to prolong the street’s lifespan. The project, which began on July 10 and will continue throughout the month, targets streets that have been resurfaced in the last 7 to 8 years.

Erika Nunes, who works in the engineering services division within the Public Works and Utilities Department, said asphalt on roads begins to wear away over time due to factors like weather and traffic.

Once the top layer of asphalt is gone, the exposed rocks in the road begin to create cracks in the road which may ultimately turn into potholes if left untreated.

By reapplying a sealant on the road every 5 to 7 years, Nunes said the city is able to reinvigorate the oils originally found in asphalt while adding additional emulsions and other oils into the mix, keeping roads healthy and protected from the weather.

“It’s kind of like when you put lotion on your cracked skin, this is kind of like putting lotion on a cracked street,” Nunes said.

The project is heavily dependent on weather conditions, but Nunes said the process usually takes less than a day to complete.

In addition to reducing the amount of time streets are closed, this project could drastically extend the lifetime and maintenance costs of Lincoln’s streets.

“Usually an asphalt overlay is intended to last 15 years. So, if we can do a few of these in between and push that out another 15 to 20 years before we need to do another overlay, that’s saving a lot of money,” Nunes said.

The contract for the project was awarded to Iowa-based Company, Gee Asphalt Systems Inc. The sealant is made out of an unrefined mined asphalt ore called gilsonite. The sealant penetrates asphalt, binding with the glue of the asphalt that holds the roadway together.

Sales, marketing and project estimator Jon Klein compared the penetrating effects of the sealant to sunscreen.

“If you go out in the hot sun and you don’t have sun screen on, there’s a good chance you’re going to have a sun burn or skin damage; the same thing happens with pavements,” Klein said.

Preventative maintenance isn’t a new concept, Klein said. He compared the way people take care of their vehicles to that of roadways, saying that a vehicle is worth what it takes to replace it.

Replacing any substantial length of road can add up quickly. When Lincoln replaced arterial streets in 2010, it cost the city nearly $7 million, according to Nunes. It cost the city just $400,000 to spray the sealant.

“Needless to say, by doing this preventative maintenance on them and preventing that damage, if we can get another five years or 10 years out of the roadway, it is significant money because it does have a limited lifetime, any one of these roadways,” Klein said.