Chip sealing is the application of a small type of rock over an asphalt emulsion, rolled in using a tire roller, and often sealed with a second layer of emulsion, according to county Public Works Director Jason Autrey.

Okaloosa County officials estimate that 26 dirt roads totaling about 16 miles in length in the north part of the county will be improved with layers of "chip seal" during the next three to four months.


Chip sealing is the application of a small type of rock over an asphalt emulsion, rolled in using a tire roller, and often sealed with a second layer of emulsion, according to county Public Works Director Jason Autrey.


While this work typically does not improve the ride quality or smoothness of the road, it’s intended to protect the road from erosion during rain events and it also controls dust during the drier seasons, Autrey recently told the County Commission.


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The commission on July 7 approved paying almost $373,000 in local option half-cent sales tax revenue to Hammonton, New Jersey-based Asphalt Paving Systems Inc. for the chip sealing work.


The 26 dirt roads that will be improved are in commission districts 1 and 3, represented by Commissioners Graham Fountain and Nathan Boyles, respectively.


District 1 includes the Laurel Hill area and part of Crestview. District 3 includes Baker, Holt and part of Crestview.


Boyles has noted that improving the roads will allow safe travel for residents to and from their homes and for public safety vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks.


In March, the commission approved a revised, Boyles’-suggested plan to improve many dirt roads in the north county area. The board agreed to use $1.6 million in half-cent sales tax money to pay for stabilizing and chip-sealing about 40 miles of such roads during a five-year period.


Overall, public works’ crews maintain close to 200 miles of dirt roads that require about three times the amount of staff attention and resource dedication to maintain when compared to a traditionally paved road, according to Autrey. He said staff has recently transitioned from maintaining with a clay base material to stabilizing the road using lime-rock.


The lime-rock material provides a much more stable traveling surface, reduces run-off into creeks and rivers, and reduces the overall cost and amount of maintenance resources, according to Autrey.