Q&A: DPW Supt. Scott Bartlett is Fairfield’s road sage
FAIRFIELD — If it’s winter, ask Public Works Superintendent Scott Bartlett about snow plowing, and he’ll be happy to tell you the ins, the outs, and the whys and the hows. But when spring rolls around and the asphalt plants open for the season, Bartlett’s thoughts turn to paving.
Bartlett was recently a speaker at the New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association’s spring conference. His topic? Snow plow route optimization.
Like snow plowing, Bartlett is willing to explain to just about anyone why some roads get paved, while others get oiled. He’s as passionate about the proper way to pave and maintain a road as he is about the Boston Red Sox.
A Fairfield native, Bartlett started working for the town 35 years ago this August. He was hired a highway laborer for Department of Public Works, but he was thinking about testing for the Fire Department. Instead, he stayed on at the DPW garage at One Rod Highway.
Now, as superintendent, Bartlett is responsible for overseeing 275 miles roadway — 288.3 miles if you include town parking lots.
Bartlett recently talked shop with the Fairfield Citizen.
Fairfield Citizen: What kind of shape are the town’s roads in this spring? Did the relatively mild winter help out in that regard?
Bartlett: The roads were in better shape this past spring than previous springs, due to those previous harsh winters, so yes, the relatively quiet winter did help.
FC: Do you have a priority list of what roads need to be repaved? How are roads prioritized?
Bartlett: We have changed our mindset. It used to be worse road first, but it is now about getting the right treatment on the road at the right time, to extend the life cycle of that pavement.
FC: People may see their road being worked on, just a year or so after being repaved. Why is this maintenance necessary?
Bartlett: There are several factors. Asphalt isn’t lasting as long, and we want to treat that investment in paving in order to get more service out of that initial investment.
FC: Other than completely rebuilding and repaving a road, what are the other options available and when are those options preferable?
Bartlett: The DPW deserves credit for being an extremely aggressive and progressive department. We do the following pavement strategies, based on the road’s condition, daily traffic count and desired finished product:
Crack sealing during early pavement life to minimize damage early on. There are two primary crack fillers; one is for roads, the other is for parking lots or roads we wish to pave over.
Chip seals are a variety of emulsions that allow us to fill in some cracking, seal pavements, and then add stone in a variety of sizes, as small at one-quarter inch, three-eigths inch, then up to one-half inch, some will go down as a base course, others a top course.
Single micro seals, double micro seals and cape seals. These seals allow us to improve road ride ability, improve crown or centerline, and correct low spots.
We also have various recycling treatments:
Heat in place. We literally heat the road at 1.5-inch depth, , add asphalt rejuvenators, compact the road, and add desired seal on top.
Cold in place recycling. We reclaim the complete asphalt thickness, add rejuvenators, add stabilizers as needed like cement and /or liquid calcium, and add desired seal on top.
Cold mix paving, where we use recycling road millings to a reclaimed road base and add desired top seal.
Mill and fill. Here, we mill off the desired thickness and add asphalt mix back into finished road.
Full depth reclamation. This allows us to rebuild up to 12 inches beneath the pavement. Our goal is to have good maintenance strategies, so we can avoid these expensive full depth rebuilds.
Any of the above processes get evaluated in the field, by reviewing drainage conditions, base conditions, curb reveal,and impacts on driveway aprons. We want to use the right tool from the tool box the town has allowed us to develop, from bidding various treatments.
FC: What is the town’s road paving/maintenance budget, and ideally, how many miles of road would that cover?
Bartlett: This year, it was fully funded at a total of $3,750,000 for all road resurfacing projects and road maintenance, with a goal of starting reductions by $250,000 in budget year 2018.
We truly feel by following maintenance practices, we can not only extend the town’s asphalt life cycle, but we think we can save money during that process. It’s no different than changing your car’s engine oil regularly, so you don’t have to replace a blown motor.
These processes are not always popular with employees, or residents ,who don’t understand the overall pavement preservation plan. and just evaluate what they think the plan should be. But we think using all the tools as treatments, gives us better road conditions across our entire network of streets.