Cottonwood Heights group says chip seal is dangerous, ineffective

Oct 5, 2022, 7:45 PM | Updated: Oct 6, 2022, 11:59 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Some cyclists and drivers said a form of road surface treatment makes their roads bumpy and dangerous.

The city uses chip seals on some of its roads. Resident Bryan Murdock started a petition calling for leaders to stop using the method.

“It’s like a gravel road, they’ve put some tar on top of it to hold the rocks kind of in place,” he said. “It’s really rough. It’s kind of smoothed out where the cars have been driving but on the sides where other road users would be, it’s very rough.”

Shauna Swinyard signed the petition following her husband’s bike crash on a road that had recently been repaired.

“They had been doing a chip seal the week before and there were signs out that said loose gravel but they had taken the signs down and he had just forgotten…and he just took the corner and knew immediately,” she said.

Swinyard’s husband still has scars on his face from the gravel, after multiple surgeries.

“His eyelid got severed and so it was kind of open and he chipped a tooth and actually, the skin right around his lip, there was a hole through it,” she said.

Ellen Birrell represents District 4 of the Cottonwood Heights City Council. She said she’s talking with some of her constituents that take issue with the method of road paving. Many of the streets of concern are within her district.

“This group isn’t the only one who’s displeased, there’s other neighborhoods in my district where residents have complained,” she said.

She said the council talked about the city’s road maintenance methods at a work session Tuesday night. Chip sealing was a topic of conversation.

“It’s something the city has been using because it’s tremendously less expensive than the $6-$14 per square foot proposition of the kind of reconstruction that I think the group is asking for,” Birrell said.

She said she invites residents to share their opinions and hopes to make all roads more user-friendly in general.

“We need better mobility, safe mobility for all users,” Birrell said.

She said the city’s five-year transportation plan will be reviewed by the council in January and implemented next summer. She said she thinks road maintenance will be a part of that plan.

“Are our citizens willing to spend more in their property taxes to cover significant road improvements?” Birrell asked.

Murdock said he’s considered this an issue for years and was motivated to start the petition after he was recently caught off guard by loose gravel on a road near his home.

“It’s teeth-rattling, it’s super rough,” he said. “There’s a lot of loose gravel that gets leftover in the process and that chips loose as time goes on.”

He said he understands reconstruction is more expensive, but he’s willing to pay for an alternative to chip seal.

“I’m not even sure what it even accomplishes,” Murdock said. “You can still see cracks in the road and potholes and everything else. It just makes the road surface worse in my mind. Any money spent on it is just money wasted.”

A petition against chip sealing can be found here.

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Cottonwood Heights group says chip seal is dangerous, ineffective