Paved with Good Intentions – A blog about road resurfacing
It all started towards the end of November when the signs went up.
In the street where I live and at all of its entrances we were warned. Our road surface was quite rough and for a few years we have had pot-holes in winter temporarily fixed up every year with some minor patches on the worst bits. I guessed that the whole road was going to get a makeover and I thought it might make a topic for a blog! I waited, watched and took lots of pictures.
Well, I hadn’t completely fixed all my blog topics and so here it is. The road was closed for four days and now we have a nice new surface from end to end.
I am going to put a few more words into this blog than some of them and I have looked into road surfacing. I do my research on the Internet and tend to trust Wikipedia as a source. Names, dates and figures will come from there.
We start with Macadam, a road construction method initiated by John Loudon McAdam sometime around 1820. He used layers of angular crushed stone, thoroughly compacted, with a binding layer of finer stone dust.
Then we come to Tarmac, patented in 1901 by Edgar Hooley. It added tar and bituminous surface treatments to Macadam. Wikipedia also uses the term Asphalt Concrete. I won’t go into technical details. Tar, asphalt and bitumen are all very thick liquids extracted from coal or petroleum and our road surface are a type of concrete made with crushed stones and some of this sticky stuff.
[Note: To Americans we are talking about ‘pavement’, which means the road surface. We say ‘pavement’ for what Americans call the sidewalk. Let’s not get too bogged down in semantics.]
I won’t attempt to go into the changes in the second half of the Twentieth Century to the original Tarmac Company but the name is used and we had at least one vehicle in the street bearing the name.
It all went very smoothly. They kept to the four days indicated and we did get a completely new surface. Most of the time there were twenty to thirty vehicles almost filling our very short road and it was done in a complex way which seemed to involve different bits of the road at different stages all the time! (Just a few of the vehicles are shown above.) I will unravel it a bit below as if it was done logically and sequentially.
Technically the road was closed to all vehicles and we even had cones and ribbon between the road and our house.
(Yes, that is frost. It was very cold for the first day!)
But the array of people and vehicles always included someone at each entrance to manage the barriers and cones for local traffic. I think in theory they stood there waiting but in practice they sat in relatively warm cars and nipped out when needed. We could almost always get out from our house on to the road or back. They would move vehicles to give us access. But once or twice we had to park just round the corner and walk. (We are lucky. We have plenty of drive space. The road is usually home to lots of cars parked there overnight.)
They worked from about 10:00 each day and at around 4:00 when it was getting dark they would clear up and get out of the way. Overnight we had free access but over very bumpy surfaces!
The first stage is done by a very slow moving vehicle that scrapes off the old surface and takes it on a long conveyor belt to an equally slowly moving lorry.
I did wonder what happens to the surface that’s removed. I don’t see why it can’t be recycled to make more tarmac but maybe it goes to landfill. I would say – ‘maybe one of my readers can tell me’ – but I’m not sure if I have any readers.
It was all done with impressive accuracy dividing the road into long narrow strips.
I think that some parts of the road must have survived in better condition than others. At the top end of the road they scraped off all the tarmac down to the layers of hard core and sand below and rolled this flat.
Down the other end in front of our house they only took off about half of the tarmac.
We take drains for granted but they get in the way when the road surface is being done.
When I was younger workers manhandled pneumatic drills. I’m not really surprised that now this is more automated. I don’t think Health and Safety would allow a man to do it now.
The drill is part of another of the vehicles that descended on us. It loosens the material round the drain cover after the scraper has done the rest of the road.
Then men with shovels and brooms came to clear up the loosened surface material.
Of course there are lots of other metal covers that needed special attention at all stages of the process.
There was another heavy vehicle to do the next stage.
With a lorry depositing raw tarmac into the front hopper it was fed to the rear where it was dropped and pressed. It left a strip about the same sort of width as the scraper managed.
When it moved to do the next strip the join was seamless. The surface was now almost perfect.
The tar was hot. You could hear it crackling as it cooled. And you could see tiny bits of leaves jumping on the surface. It was ready for the next operation.
I remember steam-rollers as big, very slow vehicles with a very heavy roller at the front. Now they are much faster and have two rollers. (Ok, they are faster than they used to be and faster than the paving machine. But not as fast as I can walk.)
Two of them would work together following the paving machine. Somehow they were lubricated with water and the surface steamed lightly behind them.
At the end of the four days we had a nice new road surface, the ribbons were taken away and the cones were piled up for collection.
All the drains and covers were smoothly aligned and we had bright new road markings.
It took another day or two to finish the end of the street by the main road where we now have a new road hump acting as a cycle crossing.
On a personal note, this is just in front of our house – in chronological order, from the rough surface in need of treatment to the new makeover picture.
The Road to Hell
I’m sure you all know about this expression but it’s a saying I learnt from my mother. If you ever meant to do something good – but didn’t get round to doing it.
The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.
Although many people believe that this comes from Samuel Johnson, who did say something close, he was following others. In Boswell’s Life of Johnson, in an entry marked April 14, 1775, Boswell quotes Johnson as saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” There are earlier sources and it is generally attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), as “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.”L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs.”
My mother had lots of good sayings and she also used to say, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” This is the best known line of the long poem by Edward Young, The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, published in nine parts between 1742 and 1745. It comes in a passage in which the poet discusses how quickly life and opportunities can slip away.