San Juan County tests ‘game changer’ process to build roads
MONTICELLO, Utah – With too many roads to fix and not enough money, a southeastern Utah community is testing out a new technique for building roads that has the potential to save taxpayers as much as 80 percent over traditional asphalt.
“We can afford to improve our roads instead of degrading them back to gravel,” San Juan County public works director Ben Musselman said of the potential of the technology. “We had to try something different to stretch our dollars.”
Using a proprietary process supplied by Lithified Technologies, San Juan County is repaving two test sections of roadway totaling four miles. The first is a high-altitude portion along County Road 110, also known as Dude Ranch Road, which must stay open year round to provide access to residential areas.
The second section sits at a lower altitude and travels to the county landfill. It was selected for the experiment because the roadway must support heavy truck traffic that has repeatedly damaged existing pavement, Musselman said.
Lithified Technologies says their eco-friendly method turns soil into a hard, water resistant surface in 24 hours, a process that would take Mother Nature many years to complete.
“That means taking soil and turning it into stone,” said Bill Sherwin, a Lithified Technologies employee overseeing the San Juan County project. “What we’re doing is changing the soil on a molecular level.”
Road reconstruction using typical asphalt normally costs the county about $1.1 million per mile, according to Musselman. The Lithified Technologies’ process is only running about $175,000 per mile.
“It’s a big savings, not only going in, but long term,” Sherwin said, adding that the resulting road base is better than existing techniques. “Most of them are either loose, like gravel, or you’ve got asphalt or cement which eventually cracks and breaks. We’re trying to come up with a base that is both strong and flexible.”
Unlike gravel roads that require attention every 90 days, Musselman says they expect the new technology to provide a road base that will go seven to 10 years without any needed maintenance.
What’s more, the building process reuses the existing asphalt, which saves time and money during construction by not having to haul away the old road.
“We don’t have to start from scratch,” Musselman said. “The beauty of it is that we are using our existing materials.”