For two decades, Rackley Road resident David Nelson endured the issues that come with living on a lime rock road. Send the dog out to do his business; he returns covered with dust. Try to dry the clean clothes on a clothesline; be prepared to wash them again.
"Even with the windows closed, you still get the dust in the house. Your vehicles constantly look like trash," Nelson said. "We've been eating the dust bad."
But Nelson isn't eating dust anymore.
Thanks to a successful experiment, he and his neighbors recently were visited by a county work crew, which scooped out their lime rock road and replaced it with a new surface made of the ground-up asphalt that is harvested from road projects around the area. The product, called asphalt millings, is spread onto the road base, then compacted into the new surface.
Many more miles of lime rock roads will receive the millings over the next five years, according to an ambitious project presented to the Hernando County Commission recently by Fred LaPiana, the county's assistant public works director.
The millings create a solid, dust-free surface on low-usage roadways and could end up saving the county $160,000 a year after the conversion of roads from lime rock to millings. The savings will come from not having to regularly maintain the roads.
Currently, county workers must do maintenance on the roads about every eight weeks, LaPiana said.
"With millings," he said, "we don't have to do that."
"I'd been arguing with the county for years about the lime rock roads and all the washouts and potholes and the money they were spending having to send the grader out," Nelson said.
Some years back, a neighbor explored petitioning the county to pave Rackley Road through the county's municipal services benefit unit program, but that would have cost Nelson upward of $30,000 because of the length of his road frontage.
Now Nelson uses words like "fabulous," "tremendous" and "very, very tickled" to describe how he feels about his newly milled road.
"I couldn't be happier with what they have done," he said. "I honestly think they have spent my money appropriately."
In 2012, county officials decided to try out the milling idea on a few roads to see how the material worked in different types of circumstances. One big fan of the project was Spring Hill resident Ty Mullis, who worked for several years to convince county officials that millings were better than lime rock.
He and his neighbors off Orchard Way grew so unhappy with the lime rock road where they lived that they, as a community, pulled together several years ago to mill a portion of their road, using makeshift equipment. Mullis said he was thrilled to hear that the county is finally embarking on a plan to put the material to work on a larger scale.
"That's outstanding," he said. "It's going to save them money."
In their road-milling experiment, county officials learned that the millings were a good alternative to lime rock if the trips per day on the surface were fewer than 250. At higher volumes, the material would begin to fail, according to LaPiana. Straight roads also worked better because tires turning on the surface seemed to loosen the material.
"We started out on a couple of roads, and it seemed to work,'' he said. "We started to get aggressive with it, and it blossomed."
LaPiana called the millings "a long-term investment in the road system" of the county.
The millings don't work as well in communities like Royal Highlands or Ridge Manor, where development is more dense and there are more private driveways. Those are the areas where paving projects — with two-thirds of the cost being paid by residents and one-third by the county — have been recommended.
LaPiana noted that, between the paving projects, which have been moving forward more rapidly in the past few years, and the new millings projects, the county has been making quite a dent in the number of miles of county-maintained lime rock roads, which now number about 400 miles.
The county has already milled about 24 miles of lime rock roads. Under the five-year plan, the county will be able to mill another 58 miles of roads. The work will be done in three zones, allowing the county to concentrate its equipment in one zone at any one time to be more efficient.
The milling project will build on itself over time because, with fewer miles of lime rock roads to maintain, resources can be shifted to milling more roads, LaPiana said.
Earlier this fall, Garden Grove resident Roger Sherman noticed the county's heavy equipment in his neighborhood, but he didn't realize workers had come to resurface his lime rock street.
"Every time I come home now, I'm thrilled,'' Sherman said.
So is Thomas Allyn, who lives off Pandora Drive on Pine Island.
Since 2006, he had lived with the lime rock.
"When it rains, it's all mud and potholes; when it's dry, you get dust,'' Allyn said.
The milled road, he said, "is the best thing to ever happen to us.''
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.