06-14 asphalt zipper-01

An 'Asphalt Zipper' in action. City officials hope to be using a zipper to repair streets faster, stronger, and for less money in the near future.

There's no quick fix for Palestine's bone-jarring, teeth-rattling streets and roads, including craters that will, literally, take out tires and front-ends.

But Palestine Public Works Director Tim Perry has found a way to stretch those pothole-filling dollars that sounds almost too good to be true.

It's called P2, and it's made right here in Texas (Elm Mott). It's 25 percent cheaper than traditional asphalt, while repairing roads faster and making those repairs last longer.

What does that mean for taxpayers? The $132,000 it now costs to pave 15,000 sq. feet of road with traditional asphalt will cost less than $100,000 with P2 emulsion.

P2 will repair streets, curb-to-curb, in less time than it now takes to do section repairs.

If this sounds like a commercial, Perry is already sold.

“The product cures faster, stronger, and it's cheaper,” he told the Herald-Press Thursday. “It's also longer lasting. The P2 mix can be cut with water by 50 percent, and then be used in following years as a sealant.”

Asphalt, which takes several months to cure before the application of chip-seal, a protective sealant, costs just under nine dollars per square yard. P2's product costs less than half that, and cures within days.

P2 costs less, Perry said, because it eliminates waste. It uses pulverized road surface as part of the mix.

Now, the damaged surface of the street has to be cut and hauled away before applying the asphalt mix. With P2, the cut sections are pulverized and blended with the mix. That eliminates waste and hauling costs.

Road crews use a truck called an “asphalt zipper” to pulverize the road sections that mix with P2 emulsion.

A distributor truck and chip-seal spreader, both available for loan or lease from Anderson County, spread the compound and finish the road.

Starting Monday, the city will use an asphalt zipper – free – for a one-week trial.

“We're going to try to finish Hilltop Drive in that week,” Perry said. “If the product is everything the manufacturer says it is, this is definitely the way to go.”

Perry did not know the cost of an asphalt zipper, but said the city could purchase one with a five-year option. Additionally, since the machine would also work on infrastructure and water lines, equipment costs would be shared by the street and utilities departments.

John Donnelly, public works director for Seguin, told the Herald-Press his city has used P2 for three years. Despite some trial-and-error at the start, he said, P2 has saved a bundle and quadrupled the number of road sections repaired in a year.

Recent cutbacks have shrunk Perry's crew to six people, including one worker designated for road signs and a supervisor.

“We're hoping to get some part-time help to work on the easier jobs, and dedicate the full-time crew to streets,” Perry said.

City Finance Director Jim Mahoney told the Herald-Press the part-time help will be paid out of the dedicated road tax approved by residents.

Perry hopes his crew will be at full-strength following this year's budget, but said it will be difficult to find qualified people at the rate the city is paying.

“An applicant with a commercial driver's license starts off at less than $13 an hour,” he said. “With Sanderson Farms and Walmart paying more, sometimes for easier work, it's hard to get, and keep, quality people.”

Mahoney, who was promoted from his interim role to city finance director in April, said city officials are working to offer better pay, particularly for those with certifications.

“Ultimately, it will be up to the city council,” he said, “but we recognize the issue.”