Counties are dealing with rising costs and declining budgets, but the population of New Mexico’s Luna County also rose 200% since 1980. Incredibly, only one of 1,900 center lane miles of road has had to be rehabilitated since then.
Even more incredibly, the road department has saved $15 million to $30 million over 15 years and has the lowest per-lane-mile costs in the state. Using rejuvenating emulsions to extend asset life has worked so well, that for several years up to 25% of maintenance funding can be allocated to converting dirt roads into paved roads.
By 1995 the New Mexico DOT had transferred maintenance on many state routes to the counties. Instead of taking a “worst-first” approach, road superintendent Martin Miller used that new state funding to launch a preservation program that has virtually eliminated the need for rehabilitation and reconstruction. Rather than relying on existing specifications, the department researched and tested a variety of products and strategies, and then designed a program and related specs around those that proved most cost-effective.
The department’s toolbox for managing wear and tear now includes sand seals, chip seals, and rejuvenating fog seals.
Chip-sealing unpaved roads
When Miller joined the department nearly two decades ago, the county’s roads, most of which are unpaved farm-to-market, were five to 15 years old.