Starke County Highway Department Chip Seals Record Number of Road Miles

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The Starke County Highway Department recently finished chip sealing 47 miles of roadway, which ties 2013 as the most miles of roads done in the last 15 years. They did set a record by completing the work in nine days, compared to 16 last year. They credit good weather and minimal equipment delays with getting the work done quickly and say they have also developed a good system which allows them to be more efficient.

About two weeks prior to the start of the work, county highway superintendent Rik Ritzler scouts the scheduled roads for debris, potholes and other potential problems. The drivers then fix any issues about a week before the scheduled work begins. A broom truck sweeps the road the morning the chip sealing is scheduled to start. A patch crew follows and repairs any holes that have developed since the preparation work. They are followed by a foreman who leads the main group and directs traffic ahead of the distributor machine, which lays oil in a thin layer across the road. Next a chipper truck spreads stone over the oil. A continuous line of dump trucks keep the chip truck fully supplied with stone, which is rolled continuously by two rollers. A pickup truck follows them and provides tail end traffic control. A week after the road is chipped the highway department sends a broom and two rollers back to re-roll and sweep off the excess stone.

The next round of chip sealing is scheduled for late August and early September, with a goal of 20 miles to be done then. Asphalt paving is next on the schedule and will start Monday, with a goal of 10 miles to complete. Those roads will be chip sealed during the second round of work. Later this summer the Starke County Highway Department will be crack sealing roads for the first time in the county.

Below is information about the chip sealing process:


1. Chip seals provide the County with the opportunity to maintain the roads for very low cost.
2. A chip seal is about one-fifteenth the cost of a conventional asphalt overlay.
3. By extending the time between asphalt overlays, chip seals result in lower costs over the long term.
4. By placing a chip seal sooner than an asphalt overlay would be placed, the traveling public benefits from roads maintained in better condition.
5. Chip Seals eliminate some need to crack seal.
6. Chip seals enhance safety by providing good skid resistance.
7. Chip seals provide an effective moisture barrier for the underlying pavement against water intrusion by sealing cracks in the pavement.
8. Chip seals prevent deterioration of the asphalt surface from the effects of aging and oxidation due to water and sun.
9.. Chip seals can help eliminate black ice.
10. In hot weather, chip seals help re-seal cracks by flowing back together.


The difference is in the construction method. Hot Mix Asphalt pavement is produced by heating liquid asphalt and mixing it with aggregate, with the mix then spread and compacted to form a durable road structure and riding surface. Chip Sealing uses the same ingredients as asphalt concrete paving, but the construction method is different. With chip seals, a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface, followed by the placement of small aggregates (“chips”). The chips are then compacted to orient the chips for maximum adherence to the asphalt, and excess stone is swept from the surface. The ingredients of hot mix asphalt and chip seals are the same; only the construction methods are different.