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New option for unpaved roads to be tested on Orchard Way

BROOKSVILLE — For years Spring Hill resident Ty Mullis has been on a mission — a mission to convince county officials that there is a better and cheaper alternative to limerock roads.

He has lobbied the state Department of Transportation to change its unpaved road standards. He has talked up the program to anyone who would listen.

He has used his own road, Orchard Way, as an example of how asphalt millings are a better alternative for unpaved roads.

Orchard Way was a project undertaken by his neighborhood. He and his neighbors purchased millings, improvised road building equipment, mixed the millings with reclaimed vegetable oil and paved a mile of their road themselves.

In the four-plus years since, the county has done no maintenance on Orchard Way.

But it may be about to.

Mullis learned this week that, on Tuesday the County Commission will consider Orchard Way as one of two test roads on which to use asphalt millings. Partly at the urging of Mullis, and also because of continuing complaints from people living along lime rock roads, the commission recently agreed to explore alternatives to the limerock used routinely to maintain 375 miles of unpaved county roads.

The other test road recommended is a section of Old Trilby Road from Baseball Pond Road to White Road.

Earlier this year the county sought bids for a supplier of asphalt millings, which come from road projects in which existing pavement is removed for repaving. DAB Constructors won the bid. In mid February, the commission agreed to a plan put forth by county engineer Brian Malmberg to use millings to upgrade a couple of roads over the next several years.

Transportation services officials could not be reached to comment Friday on how Orchard Way landed on the list, but last month assistant public works director Steve Whitaker said the plan would be to pick roads that represent various maintenance challenges due to high traffic, poor drainage, hills, curves and valleys.

The cost of completing and maintaining each test road will be tracked for 12 months and a report will be given to the commissioners.

Mullis has argued that multiple times a year, the county sends road crews to grade and add lime rock to unpaved roads, a costly process. In one recent five-year period, the county spent $10.65 million for maintenance of the unpaved, limerock roads.

And for that price, county officials have endured complaints about dust, ruts and potholes.

Maintenance on roads with asphalt millings would cost far less, Mullis said, and the county is aware of that because of its experience using millings on an unpaved road a few years ago.

Annual maintenance costs for Nodoc Road north of Silverthorn are $1,350 per mile, Mullis has figured from county transportation services information. The cost of maintaining limerock roads is roughly $4,200 per mile per year.

Millings for the two test roads would cost $25,900. The cost to have county crews complete the maintenance would be $5,114 for Old Trilby Road and $13,807 for Orchard Way.

Mullis said he didn't know why his road was chosen but "I'd be lying if I said I was disappointed.''

He had asked the county to consider Orchard Way for maintenance.

"I did lobby for it,'' he said. "Our neighborhood put money, effort and time into because it was our road and it hasn't been maintained in a long time.''

Mullis said he still wants people to understand that his mission wasn't just for Orchard Way, but for people on dusty limerock roads countywide. As a taxpayer, he said he would be happy to see the savings that the millings should produce.

But if the commission approves his road for maintenance, he will encourage neighbors to be at home to watch the work being done.

"That way we can all sit out on our front lawns, drink iced tea and watch someone else spread millings on our road,'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

New option for unpaved roads to be tested on Orchard Way 03/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 8:34pm]
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