Main Street to be repaved

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Asphalt chosen, work begins Sunday

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Smithfield town staff released a plan last week with Blair Bros. construction company to address the melting tar on the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street.

The current tar-and-gravel surface that was applied last fall will be removed and replaced with brown pea gravel asphalt by the construction company, according to an unsigned bulletin from Smithfield 2020 — an organization of which Smithfield Town Manager Brian Thrower is a member. 

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The cost of the remedial work is $99,800, according to Thrower. 

Depending on the temperature of any given day, the tar component of the top surface of the road becomes liquefied, usually when the heat approaches 90 degrees. It has become so sticky that it has even trapped a pedestrian’s shoe in the tar in weeks following the initial meltdown. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Following this repave, the road will appear as black asphalt but will “evolve” over a one-year period to generally the same appearance as the prior brown pebble street surface, according to the bulletin. 

The remedial work is scheduled to begin Sunday, June 2 at night and will be completed by June 7, weather permitting. Work will occur overnight and there are no planned daytime street closures, per the bulletin. 

Between now and the completion of the work, sand is being applied to the street to mitigate the stickiness of the road, as deemed necessary. 

The asphalt that will be installed will have the same integrity as any new street that is paved within the town, and once complete, can be plowed and sanded when needed during winter months, according to the bulletin, which also stated that the work will create “zero” loose rocks on the road surface. 

Loose rocks and dust that had become dislodged from the tar immediately following the initial repave work last fall creating dusty air conditions and pileups of stones in the Main Street gutters. 

The new plan did not address the fact that tar has spread onto the brick sidewalks and crosswalks of the street, and stated that the brick crosswalks would not be removed for this resurfacing. 

Temperatures first reached a melting point for Main Street’s current tar-and-gravel top layer on May 1, causing problems with several business owners located on the street as the black material spread from the road onto people’s shoes, the bricks sidewalks and into stores.   

One store — Vintage Potential at 215 Main St. — taped a sign to their door asking patrons to check their shoes for tar before coming in. 

Due to traffic erosion, black stripes had already appeared in the road prior to the tar melting in the months following the initial repave work, performed by Blair Bros. last fall. 

As cars drove past, sounds of their tires sticking to the tar traveled with them, and the smell of the liquefied tar was — and still is, on hot days — pervasive.  

The bulletin states that additional information about the initial resurfacing decisions and outcome will be presented at a later date.  {/mprestriction}