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Spare a Square for CO Road Cracks?

Friday, November 11, 2016

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Halloween may have been just last week, but Devil’s Night pranksters aren’t the reason toilet paper is being found on the roadways of one Denver town.

Believe it or not, the municipality of Littleton, CO, itself is laying down the bathroom tissue in its efforts to seal cracks in 120 of its streets, the Denver Post reported.

Moreover, according to town officials, the humble household product is actually meant to help protect residents’ vehicles when traveling on newly sealed roads because of one of the products promoted benefits: its absorbency.

Protection and Absorbency

It turns out public works crews are applying TP on top of the freshly laid tar with a paint roller because it acts as a protectant, absorbing oils and helping to keep the sealant material off of tires, car bodies and pedestrians’ footwear.

Normally, it can take the tar up to 40 minutes to set, officials say. But with the addition of a little TP, cars are able to use the roads immediately after a crack is sealed, Littleton spokeswoman Kelli Narde told the Post.

“It means traffic has better access because we don’t have to close down a street to do the sealing,” she explained.

Further, the tissue is biodegradable, meaning it wears away quickly and can be completely gone in just a few days.

Support for Cleanliness

While some residents are not in favor of the practice because it initially looks like litter, others are reportedly all for it if it keeps sticky tar off their cars.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, while not aware of other cities in the state using this method, also stands behind it. CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford lightheartedly told the Post, “CDOT feels that clean cracks help improve the smoothness of everyone’s experience (on our roads).”

TP does turn up in the state agency’s list of “blotting” materials for sealant application, the paper adds.

The 2014 “CDOT Hot Mix Asphalt Crack Sealing and Filling Best Practices Guidelines” notes that crews may need to “reduce or minimize tracking of the sealant by vehicle tires. Common blotting materials include toilet paper, talcum powder, limestone dust, sand, or proprietary, spray-applied detackifiers.”

One Ply or Two?

It turns out Littleton isn’t the only town in the United States to turn to bathroom tissue to enhance its roadwork.

Lincoln, NE, has also pulled from the roll when fixing its roads and has been doing so since 2014, according to a Lincoln Journal Star report at the time.

Much like Narde’s point of view, Clay Engelman, a district supervisor in Lincoln’s street and traffic operations division, noted that “We use it so we can keep moving and get more done.”

He explained that a city worker puts the paper roll onto a long-handled paint roller and essentially follows the path of the tar.

“With the toilet paper, it’s instant,” Engelman said. “As soon as we lay down the tar, we can lay down the toilet paper and it takes away the stickiness. It covers it up so cars can drive on it immediately.”

His crew can apply as many as 24 rolls of tissue in an active week, he noted. 

One important detail, though, according to Engelman: Stick to single-ply. With two-ply, the oil reportedly doesn’t reach the top layer, so it separates and ends up blowing around and making a mess.


Tagged categories: Asphalt; Coating Materials; Department of Transportation (DOT); Infrastructure; North America; Roads/Highways; Sealant

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