Board: Route 13 needs new coat

BROOKLINE – Motorists traveling along Route 13 in Brookline, heading toward Milford, complain that they must swerve to avoid potholes, cracks and bumps.

“It’s not so bad that I spill my coffee,” said a resident who lives near the state highway and uses it daily. “But everybody swerves. Every day, they’re doing it.”

The resident, who requested that his name not be used, isn’t the only one concerned about the condition of this busy road, which was last paved five years ago and underwent a test of different surfaces on different parts of the road. The portion closest to Milford seems to have degraded the most.

On June 1, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation asking when the state plans to repave the highway.

Selectmen cited concerns about safety and reminded state officials that the last time the road was paved, it had been the subject of test treatments.

In 2004, the 8.75-mile section of road between the Massachusetts line and the Milford Urban Compact line just north of Route 101 was divided into five sections, each treated with a different type of resurfacing material.

During the following years, experts in the DOT’s materials and research bureau periodically inspected the surfaces, evaluating the effectiveness and the cost of the materials.

Surface treatments on some sections of the road did better than others. The worst conditions occurred at the northern part of the highway.

Eric Thibodeau, the engineer who serves as pavement management chief for the state DOT, said workers were laying a grader shim over potholes and other worn areas of the road this week, a temporary treatment to hold the road together until the state is able to repave it.

Plant mix surface treatment, or PMST as it is called in the trade, was applied along 2.4 miles of the highway five years ago.

It was the lowest-priced of the five test treatments, at 82 cents a square yard.

Thibodeau said that the plant mix surface treatment was, in his opinion, “the worst performing treatment.”

By contrast, rubber chip seal, applied on 1.8 miles of road starting at the Massachusetts line, cost $2.89 a square yard, and nova chip, used on the third test strip, running for 1.75 miles, was the most expensive at $3.48 a square yard.

Thibodeau said the state plans to pave over the entire 8.75-mile section of highway with a 3/4-inch overlay of “regular pavement” sometime next year, depending on contract awards.

The DOT executive estimated, based on the length and width of the road and the cost of materials, that the Brookline State Route 13 project will cost about $500,000.

The extent of repaving depends on the road’s condition, including what lies underneath, Thibodeau said, adding that his department is “in the planning stage” for next year’s projects.

The DOT had planned to pave 250 miles of state roads this year until federal stimulus money arrived in the state, adding another 500 miles to the list.

Some projects won’t be completed for several years, Thibodeau said.

The Brookline road project “just didn’t make it into this year’s program,” he said.

But state Rep. Melanie Levesque, who lives in town and uses the unsightly road, cautioned against taking the repairs for granted.

“I understand there are no guarantees, and we need to lobby for that,” Levesque said.

“It’s time to step up to the plate and fix it,” Selectman Clarence Farwell said recently, predicting that the temporary treatments would degrade by next spring, “the same as this spring.”

But he said the resolution boils down to a single issue: “It’s a matter of money.”