Hot mix prices soar to $53 per ton
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Instead of the usual 30, only 20 miles of county roads will be resurfaced this year.
Obion County highway superintendent Gary Lofton attributes the reduction in service to the skyrocketing price of materials.
Case in point: Liquid asphalt, or “hot mix,” has escalated from $32.95 a ton in 2005 to a current price of $53.65 a ton. It takes 1,000 tons to resurface one mile. In 2005, it cost $32,950 a mile; today it’s $53,600 a mile.
“It’s almost doubled,” Lofton said.
Obion County, he said, has 400 miles of county roads. Resurfacing generally begins in April or May with the onset of warm weather. The “shelf life” of hot mix is eight to 10 years.
“We usually do 30 miles each year, but we’ve had to cut back to 20 this year because of the price increase,” Lofton said.
The highway department has about 20 vehicles and a workforce of about 35.
Lofton said the high cost of materials has adversely impacted the department’s budget of about $5 million. “We usually spend between $500,000 to $750,000 hot-mixing roads, but this year we’re forced to cut back,” he said. “We would need extra money to do more than 20 miles.”
And hot mix is not the only thing that’s gone up. Metal culverts, plastic culverts, limestone, “everything.”
“Concrete has gone to $7 a yard. Limestone has gone from $7 a ton to $9 a ton,” he said.
Because the county does not own a hot mix plant of its own, it must rely on private industry as a source. The local vendor is Ford Construction Co. of Dyersburg, which won a contract via competitive bid.
Lofton said there is a “Plan B” that may provide some relief. “We’re looking at every way to get the best out of the tax dollars we have,” he said.
“There has been some talk about the county getting a hot mix plant of its own. It’s not totally out of the picture but it’s on the back burner. We are working on a cold mix deal right now.”
Hot mix? Cold mix? What’s the difference?
“Hot mix is heated material. Cold mix, you just mix it cold,” he said. “They both have liquid asphalt and limestone rock (as ingredients). But the hot mix is stronger. We’ve talked to a county that’s used it (cold mix) and they say it has a life span of eight to 10 years. But it doesn’t yield as smooth a surface as hot mix does.
“We’ve done a little figuring. We think it’ll cost about $35 a ton. We are going to get some already mixed from another company and put some down to see how it’ll turn out,” Lofton said. “It’s not for (use on) a high-traffic road. It’s more for secondary roads. We’ll test it and see how it does. We’ll do that this spring. We can get it from (a plant in) Franklin County. They have a machine that mixes it. They bring the machine in and do the mixing on site.”
Published in The Messenger on 2.22.08
hot mix prices, Tennessee