HOPEWELL: Road repaving effort shakes up residents’ ride, officials look for remedies

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By Frank Mustac, Contributor
Recent road repairs in the Elm Ridge Park neighborhood have left residents with a bumpier ride than expected.
For the first time this year, Hopewell Township used a “cape seal” treatment to maintain pavement on roads near the intersection of Pennington-Rocky Hill Road and Elm Ridge Road.
Consisting of a chip seal, followed by a slurry seal, the cape seal process provides a “smoother final surface,” according to the Federal Highway Administration.
However, the cape seal application in the Elm Ridge Park development turned out having more of a gravely look and feel to it.
“When we had done Elm Ridge Park, what we found was that the surface almost had a popcorn-type texture to it and has been very objectionable to the majority of residents out there,” Business Administrator and Engineer Paul Pogorzelski said.
Mr. Pogorzelski said he reached out to the vendor that the township hired for a solution to the problem. Their response, he said, was to allow more time to pass for vehicle traffic to help smooth the road surfaces.
“I think that the problem that we encountered here is just the newness of the surface,” Mr Pogorzelski said.
He also said he had visited roads in other towns that received the same cape seal treatment to see the end results there. A road surface he saw in Bridgewater, on which cape seal was used, “is perfectly smooth,” he said.
“I don’t have specific answers, but from everyone I’ve spoken with thus far, it appears that the nature of the type of treatment is that the more the surface is used, the smoother it will become,” he said. “That doesn’t do much for the residents who are frustrated. I do have to apologize to them for that.”
Since the complaints have cropped up from homeowners in the area, Mr. Pogorzelski said he has also reached out to several of his peers to corroborate his findings.
Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski, who lives in the Elm Ridge Park neighborhood, said he “can understand why people are upset with the end appearance” of the road surfaces.
“Certainly residents are not pleased and I’m getting a lot of questions from my neighbors,” he said. “There is enough angst that I think we should convene some sort of special meeting where you can share your photos, you can share your experiences, where we can have residents be able to question the road contractor.”
Mr. Pogorzelski said he agreed with the mayor.
“Had we said this was going to be an unusually rough surface for a period of about three months, or two months, or one month until traffic wears it down, it would have changed people’s expectations and probably lower the frustration level,” Mr. Pogorzelski said.
Now that the work is done, however, the engineer said there was not a lot that could be done, barring a complete repaving of the roads in question.
“The only other alternative is to go back to the conventional mill and overlay program,” he said. “It’s a frustrating process, to say the least.” 