The City of Missoula Street Department has begun an ambitious program to chip seal a large number city streets between now and August 17.

Superintendent Brian Hensel said this will be the largest chip seal project the city has undertaken so far.

“It’s been a long term goal of mine to keep moving us up,” said Hensel. “We normally only chip seal for a couple of weeks and then last year I pushed it a little bit further, and so this year we’re doing four weeks. Just in materials alone this year we’re over about $336,000 for chips and oil just to get this going.”

Hensel said the city has produced a flyer that is being distributed in the areas where chip sealing is scheduled, so that homeowners will be prepared for the maintenance work.

“We try to do the street in the order that are shown on the flyer,” he said. “We also will set out type two barricades with notices on them saying ‘this street will be chip sealed tomorrow.’ We’re even handing flyers out door to door using the Boy Scouts, which is a great partnership for us. What I tell folks is look for the flyer, look for the barricades and we should be there the next day.”

Hensel describes the chip sealing process.

“We have a big distributor truck with an oil drum on it that like paints the street with black oil,” he said. “It’s very stick, it’s about 160 degrees, and then as that truck moves along from two to five miles an hour our chip seal spreader will come close behind with a dump truck that’s dumping chips gradually at a specified width and the chips go on top of the fresh oil.”

Hensel said bicyclists and motorcyclists should use extra caution while riding on a freshly chip sealed street because the chips can be very slick until they completely dry.

“We’re doing some big areas up in South Hills, in front of the fairgrounds before the fair begins, Sentinel High School, up the Rattlesnake, we’re going to get into some slant streets west of Stephens and a little bit up in the Miller Creek area,” he said.

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