Monday, June 20, 2011

Ask Council to help put an end to partial pavement overlays that wreck roadway shoulders

Sent this to County Council tonight.

Dear County Council Chair Stover and Los Alamos County Council:

In August, 2009, the Los Alamos County Transportation Board passed and sent Council a motion asking Council to pass and send on to the State of New Mexico and the Dept. of Energy a statement from the Los Alamos County Council requesting that partial paving overlays that degrade roadway shoulders not be used on State and Federal roads in New Mexico. This is a practice that saves money by narrowing the application of pavement overlays (such as Open-Graded Friction Course) to as small an area as possible, excluding part of the roadway shoulder. While this practice is not advised by roadway engineering authorities (see the text of the 2009 motion for details) and while it seemingly runs counter to state and Federal multimodal transportation guidelines **, partial paving is used in New Mexico to save a little money by sacrificing bicycling and motorcycling safety. To my knowledge, this motion was not acted on.

While the Los Alamos County Government does not install such partial pavement overlays, these can be seen on both State of New Mexico and Dept. of Energy roadways in or near Los Alamos County. Past attempts to remedy this through meetings with Governor Richardson have not solved the problem at the State level (see letter here:

Since roadways affected by this practice are used by Los Alamos bicyclists or bicyclists visiting our county, they directly impact the safety of the Los Alamos County Bicycling Transportation System and its cycling users. This is especially true since the 2005 Council included regional routes in the definition of our Bicycling Transportation System.

Partial pavement overlays create a hazard since the longitudinal raised lip they create on a roadway shoulder can deflect a bicycle wheel, causing a crash or causing a deflection in steering that can send a bicycle on an unintended course, such as into traffic or off of the shoulder. They further require a bicyclist to ride in the traffic lane on high speed roads rather than on the shoulder, thus increasing the chances of a rear-end collision caused by an overtaking motorist. An example is a doctor recently killed outside Las Cruces. The doctor, Ronald Fronczak, was riding in the travel lane of a State Bicycle Route when hit from behind and killed. The shoulder on that route, U.S. 70, was unrideable due to repeated application of overlapping partial pavement overlays. Pictures can be seen here.

These partial pavement overlays can be seen locally on NM-4 in the Jemez Mountains, where they are particularly egregious, to a lesser degree of seriousness on East Jemez Road, and on NM-4 between NM-502 and White Rock These are routes popular with local cyclists as well as those visiting Los Alamos County from elsewhere.

As cycling is a very popular pastime for County residents, and as cycling brings money into our community from elsewhere through the visitor industry by virtue of cyclists who visit for rides and races (for example, MS-150, Los Alamos Triathlon, Little Boy and Fat Man Duathons, and the Tour de Los Alamos), I am asking Council to bring this request to end partial shoulder paving back to the table and formally ask both our State and Federal roadway managing authorities to cease this practice.

Thank you,
Khal Spencer


Rep. Jim Hall, 43rd House District
Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists
Chris Tough, Tim Rogers, and Diane Albert, Bicycling Coalition of New Mexico
Eugene Dougherty, Los Alamos County Transportation Board Chair
Pajarito Riders bicycling email list

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