Seal Coat PhotoTexas cyclists statewide, to our collective frustration, have watched over the years as more and more miles of smooth surface on favorite routes and loops have disappeared under a concoction of rock and oil, leaving an uneven, jarring surface and loose gravel that stays on the road for months. Known to cyclists as “chip seal” but to transportation engineers as “seal coat,” it is infamous among cyclists for causing dangerous riding conditions that have led to crashes and damaged tires.
The cycling hazards caused by seal coat projects have prompted many meetings, phone calls and letters over the years from BikeTexas, local bike organizations, bike event promoters and individual cyclists to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The response from TxDOT is that they will continue to use seal coat because it’s the most cost-effective method to stop deterioration of the surface and the rest of the road before it gets started. TxDOT officials state that this is the most effective way to make a limited maintenance budget cover many miles of road.
On September 9, 2008 BikeTexas sent a formal letter to TxDOT’s Engineering Operations Division, requesting that they review the problems for cyclists associated with seal coats. We asked them to review three specific issues: consistency of the surface, the loose gravel left on the road after construction, and preserving smooth surfaces on shoulders.
BikeTexas received a very positive response on Monday, September 29 from TxDOT – they agreed to address all three of these concerns! Click here for the letter we sent them, and here for TxDOT’s response.
John Barton, TxDOT engineer and Assistant Executive Director for Engineering Operations, wrote that they would review ways to mitigate these problems, and forward best practice recommendations to the TxDOT Districts. It appears that sufficient research may have already been done and that TxDOT should be able to come up with solutions within a reasonable timeframe.
The process of building relationships with TxDOT will continue to require time and patience. BikeTexas has noticed more “bicycle-friendly” individuals steadily moving into positions with more and more decision-making authority within TxDOT.
TxDOT Statewide Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator Paul Douglas has been especially effective in clarifying the relevant issues of both cyclists and TxDOT to each other. We all need to continue our dialogue with TxDOT staff to encourage them to work toward a better outcome for cyclists on this and many other cycling issues.
We would appreciate any comments, general technical information and other documentation from BikeTexas Members and cyclists across Texas on the seal coat issue that we can compile and use in the course of our discussions with TxDOT.
Also, please continue to communicate with your local TxDOT officials. Any information you would care to send us on these local communications is also appreciated.
Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.