Ridgefield road complaints: Is it the weather? Chemicals?

Potholes in downtown Ridgefield.
Potholes in downtown Ridgefield.

Roads don’t seem to be holding up the way they used to. Blame the weather? Lack of road drainage? The quality of today’s paving products? A public less tolerant of bumps, potholes and the occasional flood?
“We’re getting a lot of complaints about our roads,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Board of Selectmen. “And it’s not just Ridgefield.”
“It’s the weather,” suggested Selectman Steve Zemo.
Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark wondered if recent changes in road de-icing products used by the town might be to blame.
“Are we still using that molasses substance?” she asked. “... I just wondered if that was contributing to the deterioration?”
The discussion came up near the end of the May 8 selectmen’s meeting, which had begun with a complaint about a road during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Joseph Lane of 29 Silver Spring Park Road said his neighborhood had a serious flooding problem, which he traced to the lack of proper road drainage — the road his house is on has no catch basins, as other roads do, he said.
“Every single time it rains we literally have a river in the back,” he said. “... It’s washing away our leach field.”
He thought the solution was for the town to address the lack of road drainage.
“We can’t put in drains ourselves,” he said.
First Selectman Marconi asked if Lane had discussed the matter with Public Works Director Peter Hill.
“He’s been out there, he’s looked at it. They put in a small berm,” Lane said.
“We’re already been told we have to rebuild our driveway,” he told the selectmen. “If you don’t put in the drains, we’re going to send you the bill.”
Marconi said he’d have Jake Muller, director of facilities, take a look at the problem.
“He’ll come out and take a look at it, I promise you,” Marconi said. “You have my word.”
Later, at the end of the meeting, the selectmen returned to the subject of deteriorating roads. The town allocated about $1.8 million for road repairs and repaving this year, and has a similar amount in the budget for next year.
Marconi confirmed that this paving season the Highway Department would be trying a couple of alternative processes.
“They’re going to have to start looking at these chemicals we use on the roads,” said Kozlark.
Selectwoman Barbara Manners asked if the town had done a chemical analysis of the de-icing products it uses.
Maroni was cool to this idea. Chemical studies aren’t something the highway department is equipped to do.
“We’d have to hire someone,” he said.
But Marconi agreed there appears to be a problem with today’s paving — the materials, the process, something.
“It’s peeling off,” he said of pavement.
“It looks like roads that were paved last year are deteriorating,” said Manners.
Maybe the town’s snow and ice clearing practices should “go back to old-fashioned sand, Kozlark suggested.
“I think it’s that product,” she said of the road salt with additives that’s used on roads in winter.
“When it was just the old days and it was just sand, did the roads hold up better?”
That seems like that’s the case, Marconi said, adding that the corrosive quality of the road chemicals may also be showing up in the number of automobiles that are rotting on their underside.
“Brake lines, transmission lines, all those tubes underneath are probably one of the biggest repair jobs Pamby has,” he said.
But Marconi wasn’t so sure about the idea of going back to treating icy roads with just sand.
“People want their roads black,” he said.