Crack sealing

A THIN layer of paper covers fresh tar on 13th Street in Norfolk. 

Some Norfolk drivers may see an unfamiliar sight along major streets this fall and in the coming years. But the work is a necessary step to preserving the streets of the city.

Work has been done to implement crack sealing on Highway 81 in Norfolk, and recently began on Queen City Boulevard.

The crack sealing is done by filling the cracks with hot tar, which are then covered by a biodegradable tissue. The paper prevents any materials used to fill the cracks from sticking to tires driving over it.

Steve Rames, city engineer and public works director, said major streets in Norfolk are in great need of the crack sealing. Roads suffer from wear and tear, especially in the moist climate of Northeast Nebraska. As roads age, cracks may develop, allowing water to seep beneath the road, further damaging it.

A paved road should last at least 50 years, Rames said, but not doing regular maintenance, like crack sealing, will shorten that lifespan.

Rames said that ideally, no water should end up inside or beneath the pavement, so crack sealing is a method to help mitigate that.

And the roads in Norfolk, Rames said, are in great need of crack sealing. Ideally, roads should be resealed every five to seven years, but the last crack sealing contract approved by the city was in 1999, explaining why the paper on the road may be unfamiliar to drivers.

Rames said he wasn’t entirely certain why the maintenance fell through the cracks.

“This is a preventative maintenance project, and for some reason, it wasn’t budgeted before,” Rames said. “Money was allocated for other projects.”

So Rames and the engineering department brought the matter to the attention of the city, and the first crack sealing contract was approved for about $100,000 earlier this year, and he said that is just the beginning.

“I’m hoping we can get that to $200,000 every year in the future,” Rames said. “That way we can get a rotation for the major roads for every five to seven years.”

In other news

Voters in three Northeast Nebraska communities passed a $34.3 million school bond Tuesday to form the Summerland school district and construct a new pre-kindergarten through 12th grade facility.