This is a complaint I filed with the Ketchum Street Department on Aug. 10, 2013:
“Is it really necessary to chip-seal in the downtown core in the height if summer? I don’t understand why you can’t put it off until after Labor Day. Getting around by car, bike or foot is nearly impossible this time of year. You need to reconsider your scheduling. I was nearly hit by an oiling truck that was backing up on Monday mid-morning Aug. 5. There was a flagger, not paying attention that I and others were crossing. There are too many people in the streets this time of year and to be taking on this project at this busy time is not a good idea.”
This is the reply from my complaint: “Pat, the short answer is that the oils used for chip-seal and micro-seal are temperature sensitive. The oils require 60 degrees-and-rising asphalt temps. June, July and August provide the warmest average asphalt temps, so we schedule accordingly to produce the quality, long-lasting treatment that we are paying for. We also speak with the special-events coordinator and others to help eliminate potential conflicts. We try to do our best and be as efficient as we can. We follow manufacturers’ recommendations, a proven track record and best management practices for our road treatments. (Scheduling outside of the busy season adds a host of complications, if you would like more details on that I would be glad to talk to you about it over the phone.)
“Ten years ago was the last time we chip-sealed the east side of the core and we tried a different oil that the manufacturer claimed to work in cooler climates like ours. The change in oil was an attempt to schedule the work around the busy season and deal with cooler asphalt temps. The oil did not work as claimed—it actually took at least a month for the oil to set and we ended up with 30 to 40 claims against the city for damages. Everybody was upset—it was a very difficult time that has left scars on my memory. We scheduled that one before the busy season and people were not happy about that either.
“For the last 20-plus years, we have completed our road treatments in June, July or August and have had successful projects. About the near miss, we contracted six certified flaggers and they were posted two per intersection. I was about a block away and was told about the near miss just after you walked across the street. The flaggers were having a hard time watching traffic and pedestrians at the same time. I stood at that intersection and watched for pedestrians until they were done. I made mention to the crew to help the flaggers out and watch for pedestrians. It was a large job preparing and treating the core streets this year but fortunately we are finished with the surface treatments on the east side of the core for quite a while. Pat, I apologize for any inconvenience or frustrations that the Street Department has caused. Sincerely, Brian Christiansen, Street Superintendent.”
My public response to the Street Department: If the flaggers were having a hard time watching traffic and pedestrians at the same time, then maybe this is not a good idea to chip-seal during the busy summer month of August. Luckily, I was paying attention, and quickly got out of the way. Otherwise, the city of Ketchum would have a lawsuit.