ASHLAND — Maintaining streets is a costly endeavor.
But Ashland's city officials hope to at least postpone some of those steep costs with a pink liquid promised to “rejuvenate” asphalt pavement.
City council voted in early September to spend around $69,000 on the product — a price officials said would buy 2,925 gallons and extend the life of 15 newly paved streets in Ashland by up to five years.
Shane Kremser, the city’s engineer, has eyed the liquid, known as Reclamite, for around six years. But pulling the trigger never made sense until recently because the city had fallen behind in repaving its 220 lane miles of streets.
The product works best on newly paved streets, Kremser said.
Streets are being paved again in what officials have touted as record numbers, thanks to a levy funded by a quarter-percent income tax increase.
City residents voted in 2016 to create the levy and renewed it in 2020. Money collected is set aside for road repair and maintenance.
The tax has generated $4.8 million since 2016, which the city has used to leverage additional state grants in order to pave 98 streets. City council approved a $2.1 million repaving program in May, which will lead to another 54 resurfaced streets by the end of this year.
“So we’re catching up now,” Kremser said. “There’s still quite a backlog, but we’re getting through them. We have 220 lane miles of streets — that’s a lot.”
A lane mile represents one mile of one lane. So one mile along Claremont Avenue is actually four “lane miles” because the road has four lanes.
Maintaining those new streets — and simultaneously repaving other deteriorating streets — reflects a new challenge that officials hope Reclamite will solve. Or at least help.
Reclamite: What is it?
Put simply, the product keeps water out of asphalt.
“Water damages roads,” said Roger Kobilarcsik, Wooster’s engineer.
The City of Wooster has been using Reclamite for a few years and really started noticing a difference in 2020 and this year. Kobilarcsik said he liked what he saw.
“Using this, it acts as a sealer. It keeps water off. So when we were plowing last winter, we noticed the road dried quicker and we could use less salt,” he said.
Maintaining roads, by the numbers
Repairing and maintaining roads costs money. The hope is that Reclamite will eliminate the need for filling pot holes and filling cracks, which are symptoms of asphalt oxidation.
Oxidation leads to pebbles and cracks on asphalt roads.
Jason Counts, Ashland’s street department director, has high hopes for the product’s success on city roads. He said sealing cracks and filling pot holes is a priority for him and his crew of 15.
The department’s budget for that work this year was $40,000. So far this year, Counts said the department has spent $43,000. The money isn’t all for pot holes and cracks. It covers asphalt materials needed for other repairs, such as fixing asphalt near water main breaks.
“We’re out there almost daily,” he said. “If we’ve got holes to fill, we’re going to fill them. And ($40,000) is about our average for a year, which will start to go down now with roads paved and Reclamite.
A 2019 Transportation for America report said preserving one lane mile in a state of good repair costs $24,000 per year. That number increases dramatically when multiplied by the number of lane miles in a city.
“If it buys us more time, it’s worth it,” Kobilarcsik said. “Anything to add life to the pavement.”
Pavement Technology Inc., based in Cleveland, helped commercialize Reclamite in the 1970s, according to its website.
The company says the product helps “maximize and maintain high road ratings and extend the service life of your asphalt pavement, while conserving your maintenance budget.
Kremser said the cost of the product comes to less than $1 per square yard.
“So it’s just affordable, giving us the return on investment based on an extended service life,” he said.
Reclamite application: when and where
Mayor Matt Miller said the product will be applied to the following streets starting Sept. 20.
He said contractors will hand door hangers on homes that will be affected.
Miller said the company can apply Reclamite to those streets in one day. It takes about 30 minutes for the pink liquid to dry.
“It’s a pink color that turns dark and matches the street,” Miller said. “It’s not tar that would get on cars. And then there’s a thin coating of sand they put down at the same time.”
If Ashland sees a difference in the quality of its Reclamite-treated roads, Miller said the city will consider applying it to additional streets.
With 54 streets being paved soon in Ashland, the city will have many from which to choose. One of those streets is Claremont Avenue, which is slated to be repaved in 2022, Miller said.
The city received a $2 million state grant to reconstruct the four-lane road from Baney to Smith roads. Ashland expects to collect $1.7 million from the street levy this year. Any additional money collected will be used on the Claremont Avenue project, the mayor said.
Will it work?
City officials all around Ohio are hoping.
Hamilton, a city 20 miles north of Cincinnati, started using it last year after learning about successes elsewhere. So did Aurora, a city near Cleveland.
Fairfield, Mason and West Chester Township, all communities in the southwestern corner of the state, have been using the product for years.
Kobilarcsik, Wooster’s engineer, said he noticed the difference right away, so the city decided to apply the product on all seven of its local paving projects this year.
"It's a relatively inexpensive treatment that will add life to the pavement. But call me back in seven or eight years," he said. "But again, if this buys us more time, it's worth it. Give it a try, you never know."