Road Worrier

Glenwood Avenue repaving is misbehaving

Staff WriterJune 15, 2010 

Rudy Worsley expected better from her state Department of Transportation, and so did 29,999 other drivers who bounce up and down Glenwood Avenue every day.

A $1.8 million repaving job was supposed to fix one of the roughest rides inside Raleigh's Beltline. It was supposed to be finished Friday.

Instead, Glenwood is a jaw-jolting road of rock and rubble south from Five Points to Wade Avenue. As the Road Worrier reported recently, the DOT will have to spend more months and money to make this section right.

And now another batch of problems has surfaced north of Five Points - where DOT's contractor, The Fred Smith Co., began applying final pavement layers last week.

Ridges appeared on fresh asphalt that should be the dictionary definition of smooth. Worsley was dismayed.

"It's not much different from what it was before they started," said Worsley, 53, who lives on a Glenwood side street. "It's just very bumpy."

Now drivers hear a familiar noise as they roll down the avenue - a sound they've lived with for years, while they waited for the DOT to repair Glenwood's broken pavement:

BaDOOMP, baDOOMP.

"It's disheartening to know that it's such a sloppy job," Worsley said. "Do they know they screwed up?"

They know.

"We have some bumps out there," said Jeffrey Allen, a DOT engineer overseeing the job. "We're trying to do some things to lessen that effect during paving operations."

Allen tried to explain what went wrong. The DOT and Smith scraped off the old asphalt, applied a sealant to cracks in the underlying concrete, and then put fresh asphalt on top.

But the 300-degree asphalt melted the crack sealant, he said - making it a squishy liquid that wiggled as the asphalt paving machine rolled over it. Unseasonably hot weather made the problem worse.

"The crack sealant underneath is moving, and that asphalt is wanting to move at the same time," Allen said.

You could see the rippling effect Monday if you drove south on Glenwood from Oberlin Road. On the inside lane, not yet topped with asphalt, the gray concrete was striped with black sealant.

Where a stripe disappeared under the new asphalt layer on the outside lane, it was like a snake wriggling beneath a rug. A raised ridge traced its path across the road.

The DOT first applied its anti-Midas touch to Glenwood in February. When snowplows snagged bumps and peeled back loose pavement, small potholes became big ones.

Then in May, when Smith scraped away the old asphalt south of Five Points, the underlying concrete was in worse shape than DOT had expected. It could not be paved over, so it will have to be dug out and replaced.

The construction cost and schedule are to be announced later this month.

Brandon Jones, who oversees DOT maintenance in Wake and six neighboring counties, said Smith is working to smooth over some of the bumpy asphalt. They'll try a different approach to reduce the problem for the rest of the paving.

Old road is headache

"We don't know if we can 100 percent avoid this from happening," Jones said.

Glenwood has posed problems for the DOT, with asphalt on top of old concrete slabs that were put down at different times of the 20th century.

The best fix would be to remove all the old concrete and rebuild the whole thing. That's what DOT must do now on the short section south of Five Points, but it was deemed too costly to take that approach for the other two miles of this job.

"We've dramatically improved the pavement structure by repairing the underlying concrete and replacing the asphalt," Jones said. "Now we've got to fine-tune the rideability."

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