The Hummel Report

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What's Underneath

A lifelong resident of one Warwick neighborhood is critical of how the city handled a recent road paving project, saying a lack of through preparation will result in cracks and deterioration of the asphalt sooner than later. This week, Jim Hummel sits down with city officials who defend their paving program and say another layer of oversight out in the field is on the way.

SCRIPT:

It is one of the best-looking streets in the entire city of Warwick.

And it should be.

That’s because Norwood Avenue, and some side streets adjacent to it, got a fresh layer of asphalt just last month, part of a $2.1 million city paving project in a neighborhood just off Post Road.

The pavement itself looks great. But it’s what’s underneath that will ultimately determine how long this road lasts.

DiSalvia: ``Next year come back and you’ll see a bunch of cracks, I’ll guarantee that.

Mike DiSalvia is a lifelong resident of Norwood, who has watched crews from Cardi Corporation, the contractor hired by the city for this project, first prepare, then pave the length of Norwood Avenue.  DiSalvia has worked on road construction crews and has extensive experience with asphalt and concrete.

DiSavlia: ``We have a lot of traffic that travels on these roads, putting an inch and a half over it with no base is just set up for failure. Call up anybody who does driveways, they’ll tell you they want to put 3 to 4 inches in your driveway. That’s where you park a car. We drive tractor trailers over these roads, buses come over these roads, school buses come over these roads. It’s meant to fail.’’

In an era of tight municipal budgets, the extent of the work here comes down to money. DiSalvia says the roads should be pulverized, a much more extensive - and expensive - process.

Instead Norwood underwent what’s called a mill and overlay process, which costs much less.

DiSalvia: ``The road should be done the proper way, instead of just getting out of it the cheap way. When I talk to the city I get an answer of we don’t have the money , be happy with the road that lasts five to seven years. I’m not happy with that. I want a road that’s going to last 20,30 years.’’

Earls: ``We did that road correctly: we milled down and the road was in good shape, we put the overlay on top of it.’’

Eric Earls is Warwick’s City Engineer. He, along with Mayor Scott Avedisian and Department of Public Works Director David Picozzi, met with us last week to address DiSalvia’s specific concerns - and to talk about the larger issue of paving in the city.

The mayor said a big issue has been utility cuts in the city’s streets - something that has particularly aggravated DiSalvia.

Avedisian: ``One of the worst things you can do is have a road repaved and then let people dig it up immediately. When yo do the cut and patch, that’s where problems tend to arrive.’’

As a result the city reached an agreement with National Grid that the company  not touch roads for five years after they are paved, except for an emergency. And in the Norwood section the utility company agreed to pave half the road where it was doing work last year, instead of just around the trench.

Avedisian: ``In Norwood last year as the gas company and utility company were doing work, we had one contractor, they had another; so under normal circumstances if we marry up the contractors then we can do the whole road, they pay for a portion we pay for a portion.’’

The bottom line: on some streets, like this one, only half the road got paved.

Picozzi: ``If the other side of the road is not compromised, it’s in great shape, we don’t bother paving that over. It’s still in good shape, everything’s great, there’s no sense in ripping that road out and spending the money to repave it just so they’re both really black, you know what I mean?’’

DiSalvia says the city needs to have an inspector in the field - for both utility work and paving jobs, to make sure they are being done to specification.

DiSalvia: ``Someone needs to be out here - they got to go behind National Grid, they’ve got to see what’s going on. National Grid comes in, they open roads up. They do what they call a bucket strike; a bucket strike sends sheer waves through the ground and loosens up everything around it. And it ruins your road. they don’t put them back properly, they’re supposed to be compacted every so many inches.

Earls: ``We don’t have the personnel right now to be out there with them all of the time. But we will meet the contractor on site before they start work, discuss  what the game plan  - you know,  essentially we’ll walk the whole site because the areas you might have concerns are at intersections. How are we going to work at this intersection? Also at driveways, you want to make sure you’re not creating drainage issues at driveways, so you want to match in really nice. So we’ll talk the whole site with the contractors. Then after the whole road is milled we’ll go out and check on them during the milling operations, but we won’t’ stay with them and look over their shoulder - but after the road is completely milled, we’ll go back out there and inspect the whole operation, see how it looks, and then meet them on paving day; and then they’ll pave it and we’ll go back and do our final inspection after it’s all paved.’’

Hummel: ``When were the last set of city eyes on that road before that morning?’’

Earls: ``We had been out there Friday.’’

Hummel: ``Just the day before.’’

Earls: ``Yeah.’’

Hummel: ``Any problem with loose gravel?’’

Earls: ``No.’’

Hummel: ``You don’t think that compromises the road at all?’’

Earls: ``They sweep it before they pave it.’’

Hummel: ``Clearly in some sections they weren’t. There was loose gravel everywhere . If you have loose gravel after where you’ve milled and asphalt goes down over it, is that a problem, from an engineering standpoint?’’

Earls: ``It’s not ideal, but it’s not a significant problem either, because there’s aggregate in the mix.’’

DiSalvia says an inspector would have seen this lip in the road, or uneven paving around manhole covers on Norwood Avenue that he says should have been flush with the road.

Earls told us that the city plans to replace an employee retiring from its engineering division with someone who has construction inspection experience - to be out in the field and oversee projects like the Norwood paving job. That news hire is expected to be on board by the end of the year.’’

Hummel: ``How long do you expect that paving to last?

Earls: ``You’ll probably see some small cracks in five to seven years; then we crack seal it. You know, you apply that strategy to it, you’re not doing a full reconstruction on that road for another 15 to 18 years.’’

DiSalvia: ``When I talk to Eric Earles from the Engineering Dept, it’s like, be happy with a road that’s going to last five to seven years.’’

Earls: ``With the milling, with the paving operation we can be out there intermittently and do those inspections and satisfy those requirements.’’

Hummel: ``Don’t you also think presence from the city might send a message: We’re keeping track of you guys?’’

Ealrs: ``Absolutely but we’re moving in that direction.’’

 

In Warwick, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.