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Resurfaced Amherst road already deteriorating

Just five months ago, most of Sunderland Road between North Amherst center and Route 116 had what appeared to be a fresh coat of pavement applied over its previously rough surface.

The road was not only smooth, but the town had contracted with a company using an environmentally friendly technology that reused pavement with a technique called hot-in-place asphalt recycling.

The job hasn’t even made it through its first winter. The road is already marred by several potholes and rough sections.

“On Sunderland Road, it doesn’t seem to have worked the way we thought it would work,” said Guilford Mooring, superintendent of the Department of Public Works.

He said huge holes have popped up in a number of locations and he expects more to develop as the freeze-and-thaw cycle continues in March.

The town hired Gallagher Asphalt of Thornton, Ill., to use its “Recycled Hot Emulsified Asphalt Treatment,” or ReHeat technique, which has been used in other cold-weather communities and is holding up on portions of North Pleasant Street and University Drive.

Mooring said Gallagher will return in the spring to evaluate its work and has assured the town that it will do any repair work at no cost.

“Anything to be done will be done under warranty,” Mooring said.

Two factors may be causing the problems on Sunderland Road, said Mooring. The weather was too wet and cold while the work was being done, and the road was too far gone to use such a repair technique.

“There’s definitely windows for doing this work. I think we were out of the windows in both areas,” Mooring said.

Town Manager John Musante said as part of the $16 million roadwork backlog, the recycled pavement idea was a cost-effective solution.

“We think the technology is good,” Musante said.

It is estimated to reduce, by about one-third, the energy needed to mill and resurface a roadway. Fewer trucks are needed to haul asphalt to the site and fewer vehicles are involved in the process. But, Musante said, a good stable base is needed.

“On Sunderland, we need to understand more precisely the underlying condition of the road,” Musante said.

The process includes two “cooker” vehicles using radiant convection heat passing over and raising the temperature of the surface to around 400 degrees before scraping up the layer of asphalt and mixing it in an attached drum.

Then the machines put down the new surface using the same material, after combining it with emulsified asphalt, which is liquid asphalt mixed with water. A roller follows behind.

For now, the DPW will fill the Sunderland Road potholes, using its own asphalt-recycling machine that it acquired three years ago.

“We’ll patch them like we normally do,” Mooring said.

This machine allows filling of potholes at a faster clip and putting down a hot mix that is less likely to be dislodged by passing vehicles.

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