he fresh new asphalt on a main route into downtown Franklin is being closely watched for any signs of cracks or rocks popping through the surface.
The same is true for newly paved parking lots around downtown Franklin, and multiple other projects done around Johnson County and the state in the past year.
The issue is the asphalt put down on those roads. State officials said they are concerned about the quality of the asphalt, and whether it will last as long as it should.
Those concerns delayed the completion of a project at a busy Center Grove area intersection earlier this year and are now leading local officials to do their own testing of asphalt before roads are paved this year and mark specific sections of recently completed roads to look for unusual wear and tear.
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But whether any of the roads will need to be repaved sooner — and who would pay for that work if it was necessary — is still unknown, Franklin city engineer Travis Underhill said.
The state is trying to figure out if the proper mix was used for the asphalt put down in projects last year. And if the mixture wasn’t right, they need to determine what went wrong, and what impact that has on the roads affected, Underhill said.
All projects done with the asphalt the state is concerned about are being checked, said Harry Maginity, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.
The quality of the asphalt has been a concern for months and delayed a project earlier this year at State Road 135 and Smokey Row Road, he said. A state project added a new stoplight and turn lanes there, but the final coat of asphalt was delayed by more than three months, while state officials tested the quality of the asphalt being used. Other projects in the state are still being held up due to the testing, he said.
“It took a while to get done, but when all was said and done on that project, the asphalt was in good condition,” Maginity said.
Underhill has been talking with state officials about the asphalt issues because the quality could impact the recently completed project to redesign and rebuild Main Street leading into downtown Franklin, which the Indiana Department of Transportation was involved in because the work was paid for with a grant.
But the effect could reach further because multiple communities in Indiana use the same specifications as the state department of transportation for their own asphalt mixes that are put on local roads, Underhill said.
For example, the city used those specifications for new parking lots around downtown, he said. He did not know of any other projects in Johnson County that could be affected. Officials in Greenwood and the county were not available Monday.
Discussions have continued in recent days and have continuously changed as new information is learned, he said. The impact on the roads could be as little as cutting 10 percent off the total life expectancy.
A road surface is typically expected to last seven to 10 years. If the asphalt on Main Street was mixed wrong, that could mean the road surface will last seven years, which is still within the expectations, Underhill said.
But right now, officials aren’t sure what the impact on the roads will be, which is why they are closely watching them.
“It’s a big enough deal to make sure, because of the amount of dollars spent on these projects, that we are getting what we pay for,” Underhill said.
Franklin is spending $10,000 to have the asphalt that will be used for paving this year tested at both the plant where it is made, and before it is laid on the roads to make sure it is mixed properly, Underhill said.
That decision was made partly due to the issues the state has been discussing, but also due to the amount the city is spending this year on paving projects — about $1 million, Underhill said.
“Our investment this year is double what it had been in the past,” Underhill said.
“When you make a substantial investment, you always keep your eye on it a little more.”
So far, Underhill said he has not noticed serious issues with either project, but both are still very new. On the parking lots around downtown, he has noticed some rocks coming to the surface of the asphalt sooner than he would like, but he is not sure if that is an asphalt issue. He plans to continue watching it, and has marked out certain spots that will continuously be checked.
On Main Street, the key will be to see how that road fares during the winter, and even a second winter, he said.
“A lot will be very clear after the first winter, and possibly the second winter, but we will know a lot next year,” he said.
“The road’s only been open for a couple months.”