By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - Recently, "Fresh Oil and Chips" signs re-appeared in the Greater Shenandoah Area, on Route 54 from Mahanoy City to Girardville, though the recent PennDOT work isn't the traditional oil-and-chip method used for low volume roads, according to the district press officer.
The treatment used on 54 this year is "mechanized patching," according to Ronald Young, district press officer for District 5, and the treatment "is usually completed during the summer but can be accomplished at other times of the year as road and weather conditions permit."
"Mechanized patching involves marking the area that needs patched, cleaning the area using a street cleaning broom, filling any large holes or low areas with patching material, compacting the material, applying a layer of asphalt over the marked area and compacting the area with a roller, and sweeping the area after the work (if needed)," said Young. "If workers did not perform mechanized patching, the damaged road surface would further deteriorate, forcing PennDOT to completely rebuild the road or perform other, more costly corrective measures."
"Mechanized patching can be performed with bituminous material ('paving') or as a seal coat ('oil and chip')," Young continued, noting that the recent Route 54 work was used as a seal coat.
The difference between mechanized patching and the oil-and-chip method, Young said, is that mechanized patching "is not used as a full-width road treatment."
"Mechanized patching is another road maintenance tactic than can be used on roads with an average daily traffic volume 20,000 vehicles or less," said Young. "It is used to patch limited roadway areas that have extensive potholes, large areas of cracked pavement and depressions. It also improves the smoothness of the road surface."
The traditional oil-and-chip method, officially referred to as surface treatment/seal coating, "is used as a way to extend the life of low-traffic-volume roads for another three to five years," according to Young. "This activity is performed when temps are greater than 60 degrees, generally in the months of April to October. Surface treatment requires a sweeper, oil distributor, a stone chipper, rollers, numerous dump trucks, and a crew comprised of approximately 18 crew members."
"The operation begins with the roadway being swept clean of all debris. Then, oil is sprayed to the roadway with a layer of fine stone immediately applied on top of the oil. It is then rolled in place with all loose aggregate swept from the roadway once cured," continued Young. "Generally, it takes about two days for the stones to fully bond in the hardened asphalt. Motorists should reduce their speed on their roads until the stone and the asphalt fully adhere. This maintenance treatment seals the road surface to keep water out and restores the friction of the surface to enhance traction."
According to PennDOT's Schuylkill County traffic volume map for 2016, published in December 2017, Route 54 from Raven Run Road in William Penn to the west end of Shenandoah Borough has an average daily traffic volume of 2400, from the east end to St. Nicholas has 3100, and from St. Nicholas into Mahanoy City has 4300.
PennDOT Publication 242, the pavement policy manual, defines a low volume road as having an average daily traffic volume of 1500 vehicles or less. As a result, the stretch of Route 54 from Lost Creek to Girardville would be considered low volume, with an average daily traffic volume of 1400.