Roadwork put on hold after highway equipment fails

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – Roughly 20 miles of Johnson County roadways that were scheduled to be chip-and-sealed this year won’t be resurfaced until spring of 2018 after two crucial pieces of machinery broke down in October.

County Road 300 North, near I-65, was the first of 26 county roadways scheduled to be chip-and-sealed in the fall of 2017. Highway crews had started work on 300 North when the department’s asphalt distributor and chip spreader began to fail, said Highway Department Director Luke Mastin.

“It was pretty obvious pretty quickly that we were having some major calibration issues,” Mastin explained.

The county road was left unfinished, leaving drivers with a gravely, groovy, bumpy ride for the last couple months.

“It’s deplorable and I would say dangerous,” said Johnson County resident Dianne Lindley. “It’s a rough surface and it has strange grooves.”

“My wife had her windshield cracked from the rock flying and hitting it,” said Johnson County resident Dough Dougherty.

“We’re not happy about it either,” Mastin said. “That is not the type of work that we do, and it’s not the type of work that we like to leave.”

Mastin said the machines that broke down had been in use since the early 1990s and highway department officials knew the equipment was nearing the end of its usefulness.

“We were hopeful we could get through one more season with what we had, but unfortunately that just didn’t work out,” Mastin said.

Mastin said the county had spent several years saving money for new equipment and spent $340,000 for a new asphalt distributor and chip spreader. The new equipment has already arrived at the county highway department headquarters. The decision was made to postpone the 2017 projects until next year, rather than struggle with the failing equipment through the fall and winter.

Delaying the work will roughly double the 2018 project list. Mastin says the department was already preparing for an expanded chip-and-seal season in 2018 because the department will receive additional revenue from the recently increased state gas tax.

“We think we’ll be able to fit in both all of our new work and finish up our work that we had hoped to finish up next year,” Mastin said.

He says fixing the unfinished 300 North will depend on how Mother Nature treats the roadway over the winter.

In the meantime, drivers like Dianne Lindley aren’t looking forward to driving the road once winter weather sets in.

“I keep thinking when there’s ice on the road, what’s it going to be like,” Lindley said. “You know you get caught in those grooves.”

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