Road sealant passes test of time

Published On: Mar 18 2013 06:58:46 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 19 2013 09:42:16 AM HST

Olu Street is one of the oldest roads in Kaimuki, as evidenced by an old concrete sign post that still refers to the road as an “avenue.”

But, if you look at Olu Street today, the road looks almost new – no pot holes or uneven surfaces. What’s the secret? It could be an application known as slurry seal that was placed on the road on July 16, 2010.

"It still seems pretty smooth," said Olu Street resident Shaun Kamida. "I mean, this is a lot better than what it was before. It looks a little bit older, but it's holding up really good."  

Olu Street is among several city roads that received a coat of slurry seal as part of a $2.2 million pilot project in Kaimuki, Kapahulu, Diamond Head, Aina Haina, Aikahi Park, Kaneohe, and Honokai Hale under former Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Thirty-two months later, Olu Street does show some cracking, but the contractor who laid down the slurry seal says those cracks are unlikely to retain much water.

"The slurry seal does go down into the cracks and provides a water protection, so that the water cannot infiltrate those cracks. But you will see some of them reflected through the surface," said Elisabeth Wilson, majority owner and president of Alakona Corp. "Water is our enemy on pavement. It goes down into the base of the pavement and then that rock can move around."

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to increase the city's current slurry seal budget from $1 million to $2 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The goal is to keep roads in good condition before they completely deteriorate.  The mayor's plan has support from the City Council. Caldwell was the city's managing director when Hannemann launched the slurry seal pilot project in 2010.

"In the long run, I think we'll save because we won't have to keep going back to fix them," Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who chairs the Budget Committee, said of the city's plan to slurry-seal roads. "I'm for spending a little bit more if it will last longer."

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-$14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly.

Caldwell wants to repair and refurbish about 1,500 lane miles of city roads over the next five years that have been deemed unsatisfactory. The mayor's current budget proposal asks for $153 million for road repair in fiscal year 2014, but also pushes a 5-cent increase to the city's fuel tax to help pay for the program.

Council members must approve the city's executive program and operating budget no later than June 15.   


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