ONCE THOUGHT EXCESSIVE, NOW A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO ASPHALT ROADS
When a contractor charged with reconstructing a north Grand Junction intersection recently inquired about finishing off a rebuilt road with concrete instead of asphalt, city officials did something that would have been unthinkable just a year ago.
They said yes.
Concrete’s traditionally exorbitant up-front cost has long scared off contractors and builders. But some local governments and developers are now embracing it to pave streets as asphalt supplies shrink and costs soar.
The city has turned to concrete to pave several roads in the last year, including the rebuilt Seventh Street between Grand and Ute avenues, the soon-to-be-rebuilt Colorado Avenue between Second and Seventh streets and all the signalized intersections along Riverside Parkway. And a developer believes his subdivision under construction in the Redlands will be the first in the Grand Valley to have concrete roads winding through
For drivers and taxpayers, the shift from asphalt to concrete could result in savings of time, money and road repair-related headaches.
Grand Junction Engineering Manager Trent Prall said he believes more contractors will pour concrete in the months to come.
“It will definitely become more common if the supply of asphalt isn’t corrected here next spring,” he said.
Prall said oil refineries across the country are investing in billion-dollar machines known as cokers, which can refine the chunkiest, lowest-grade and least-expensive crude oil into highly profitable fuel such as gasoline and diesel. That leaves less oil to be used in asphalt. And less supply translates into higher prices.
“If we’re not going to have a regional supply of asphalt, time is money to the development community and us,” Prall said. “If concrete is more readily available, that’s more attractive to us.”
Earlier this year, the city hired Henderson-based Scott Contracting to redesign the intersection of 26 and G 1/2 roads near Bookcliff Gardens to create better sight distance for motorists. Scott asked the city if it could pave a quarter-mile of 26 Road with concrete because the subcontractor in charge of paving stood to lose $60,000 by using asphalt.
The concrete cost the city an additional $15,000 up front but saved it potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance.
“That was a screaming deal for us,” Prall said.
Local developer Sid Squirrell saw the same opportunity with Red Rocks Valley, a 155-home development beginning to take shape on 140 acres at the south end of South Camp Road.
When he began seeking bids last spring to pave 3 1/2 miles of subdivision streets, concrete was much more expensive than asphalt. But when summer arrived, asphalt oil supplies plummeted. With fall looming and the construction season coming to a close, he changed course and sought bids from concrete companies.
Although the up-front cost of concrete was still higher than asphalt, Squirrell said the difference shrunk from $140,000 to $20,000. He figures he’ll recoup that investment not only through reduced road maintenance, but a more aesthetically pleasing look to the development.
“It’s much nicer looking,” he said of concrete. “The maintenance is incredibly better. People don’t realize this, but it’s much cooler in the summertime.”