By Jared Raney
Right now, Oneida County is approximately 57 years behind in construction on county roads. If you’ve lived in Oneida County long, or Wisconsin in general for that matter, you’ve probably heard the complaints about road quality.
Luckily, this week the Highway Department received a a new machine that will change everything.
“This machine is called a chip spreader,” said Freeman Bennett, highway commissioner, who recommended the chip spreader purchase. “It actually thickens the surface, gives you a better ride and makes your roads last a minimum of eight years longer.”
This process works by spraying existing roads with an emulsion layer, basically an oil mixture, then spreading gravel chips and rolling them into the surface. It creates a protective layer over roads, using the existing infrastructure and strengthening it.
Bennett’s department is responsible for 172.5 miles of county road, and with the current schedule of repair they are trying to get 43 years out of their asphalt.
“Your average blacktop will last you between 15 and 20 years, depending on how you take care of it and maintain it,” Bennett said. “This will actually make that blacktop last 20-30 years.”
Starting next spring, Bennett will begin a new road plan, where the Highway Department will reconstruct five miles of road and chip seal 20.
“If we could do 25 miles of road per year with contruction and chip sealing, we could be caught up in five years,” Bennett said.
According to Bennett, a brand-new chip sealer costs well over $300,000. Oneida County’s new, used chip sealer came in at $131,000—less than half of full retail cost.
“Another thing that’s of very great importance with this machine; at the present time it costs approximately $220,000 per mile for Oneida County to reconstruct a road,” Bennett said. “You can go in and chip seal these roads, get anywhere between 8-15 more years of life out of it, and it’s only $17,000 a mile.”
Meaning that while the county spends millions of dollars a year and still falls behind in repairs, chip sealing can increase longevity while simultaneously decreasing costs.
“I think it’s going to be huge savings to the taxpayers of Oneida County,” Bennett said. “I also feel as if we’re going to get a lot more money out of our roads. They’re going to last longer, give us a better ride. I think it’s a huge thing for Oneida County.”