For the last few years, motorists between Mount Tremper and Woodstock have felt like Sunday drivers in rural Bulgaria. Route 212, the primary road connecting Saugerties and Route 28 in Mount Tremper, with Woodstock smack in the middle of it, was a mess. Enormous cracks, potholes and bumpy temporary patches made morning commutes coffee-spilling amusement park experiences. So it was with surprise and delight that with the start of September, residents saw the arrival of an enormous armada of construction vehicles, some weirdly unfamiliar. What Woodstockers didn’t know is that their road was going to be paved using a relatively new, groundbreaking process, the most ecologically friendly in the world.
In the old days, meaning a mere decade ago, a new 1½ inch asphalt layer would have simply been laid and rolled atop the old road. Of course, over time, such repeated pavings caused roads to become higher and higher until they towered above everyone’s driveway feeding into them. An alternative procedure, still commonly used, was to scrape away a couple of inches of the old beat-up road, haul it away, and fill in the gap with new asphalt. But the newest process is the best of all, and is little short of amazing.
A giant wheeled milling vehicle, moving along at 25 feet per minute, grinds up the old asphalt highway to a depth of five inches. This old road material is pulverized, mixed with fresh asphalt and water from tankers in tow, and piled up. The mounds only remain in the road for a few minutes when the next mammoth machine scoops them up and spreads them into the hollowed-out road cavity, where the dark mass is pressed flat by a series of rollers. This recycles all the old asphalt. Granulated and mixed with fresh macadam, the resulting surface is quite good. And yet this is not the new road, even if it seems that way, complete with temporarily painted yellow lines. Rather, this is labeled cold in place recycled asphalt, and only remains visible for 72 hours.
Ed Decker, the job superintendent for the contractor, Peckham Road Corp. — just back from handling one of the daily mechanical or personnel crises that arise on every job — explained that after three days, yet another layer is added by a new series of paving vehicles. This is the actual final asphalt, spread hot at 350° and rolled to a thickness of 1 1/2 inches.
It’s all done under the watchful eyes of Department of Transportation safety and quality control inspectors like Steve Freeman, who takes road samples throughout the day. He said that this new recycling process has only been around since the mid 2000’s.
As these 9 1/2 miles of Route 212 become a brand new road, other Hudson Valley residents might be drooling at the prospect of their own state road becoming silky smooth.
No such luck. At least, not now. According to department of transportation public information officer Gina Desario, no other road in Ulster County will be paved this year.
How do they decide which of us get a smooth commute, and which receive coupons for years of automotive shiatsu?
“It’s complicated,” Desario sighed. First everyone should know that so far as our state roadways are concerned, New York is divided into 11 regions. The entire Hudson Valley is Region 8. This includes over 2000 miles of roads. The process of picking the highway-paving lottery winners begins with a Department of Transportation person reliably driving on every single road once a year.
“They use a rating system,” Desario explained. “Paving decisions are based on how bad the road is, its volume of traffic, and the expense. In the past two years the governor has accelerated the paving of roads, but even without that boost in the number of jobs, route 212 would have been paved anyway.”
Maybe it’s worthwhile to drive over and watch them, as they finish up Woodstock’s new Eco-Road by month’s end.
Editor’s note: Bob Berman, our Night Sky columnist, jarred by the rough ride from Willow, looked down for this story, instead of up.