Lawton Road Work Resumes Post-Election
While I admit I don't get around to all the different places in Lawton on a regular basis, it seems that road crews are back at doing what they do best here in town... Fixing roads.
Our Lawton road crews have done some outstanding work in 2021, mainly smoothing out some of the more troubled areas of Cache Road. While the work on our busiest street is nowhere near a "done" status, that good work seemed to cease around September when Mayor Booker managed to score his reelection. Since then, road crews have been few and far between across town until now.
Again, let me stress that I don't wander the streets... If they've been working, odds are they weren't on my daily ride. Nobody sees everything, not even the perfect Karen's of the eastside.
There are a ton of smaller side streets here in downtown that see an abnormally high amount of traffic. Due to that traffic, there are places where the repairs don't last long... in this case, 7th Street between A and B Avenues.
In the fifteen-ish years that I've taken 7th Street from Gore Boulevard to D Avenue on the regular, I want to say that particular stretch has been redone at least six or eight times. Seems a bit high doesn't it? Maybe the problem isn't the repair, but rather the base.
If you were the best at building one specific thing, but in one location that something kept falling apart, would you assume that you're losing your touch or would you guess there was something wrong with that location? It has to be the location.
Asphalt is a wondrous thing. You can shape and mould it, makes for great driveways, 99% recycled, and city municipalities love it because it's way cheaper than concrete. Like half as cheap as concrete. If you run the street division for a sprawling town like Lawton, using asphalt is a good way to upkeep the roads.
It's the upkeep of asphalt that really lends to the reputation of it being an inferior road material, but it's all in how it's used. Take a look down the smaller highways around Lawton-Fort Sill. Highway 62, the refuge roads, portions of Highway 7, even sections of I-35... the surfaces you drive on are asphalt.
"But asphalt doesn't last that long!"
Even I'm guilty of saying that. It's practically common knowledge at this point even though it's wrong. Asphalt, when it's done right, can last a very long time, and it all starts with the base.
Of all those highways where silky-smooth asphalt is used, the entire highway isn't made with it. While you can pack asphalt to be pretty dense, it's sort of like glass. Sure it's hard, but it's also still a liquid. It moves when conditions are right. As asphalt is just rocks and an oil byproduct, it never really sets if it has the option to scatter.
So what's the difference? The best asphalt roads are built with a concrete base. It forms a solid and unrelenting foundation for the smooth top layer. Most roads built like this are just two inches thick in the asphalt layer, just enough to provide a good driving surface. In the event the surface breaks down, it's much easier to pull it up and just lay down a new one.
So why does that one block of 7th between A Ave and B Ave keep breaking up? There doesn't seem to be a concrete base underneath it. Instead, the city keeps piling on the asphalt hoping they'll be thick enough at some point it'll stabilize.
Spoiler alert, as hot as we get in summer, it won't ever stabilize. It's just not the nature of it, at least that's the case in talking with the road construction dude that was nice enough to talk with us on the condition of anonymity.
The story of this stretch of road gets even worse when you do the math too. If asphalt is only half the cost of concrete, how many new concrete residential roads could the city have poured with the same money it has paid to lay down new asphalt on the same old stretch of this one seven or eight times?
I know, it's maddening... but if you aren't doing it at least twice, it's not government work.