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Normally, I write this screed in the summer. That is when I notice the heat coming off the blacktop. When I am out walking, I really notice the difference between sidewalks and crossing the blacktop.

The recent work on West Howry Avenue in front of the new fire station makes this topic timely, despite the wintry cold. 

So, here comes one out-of-season rant on a subject everyone is tired of.

During our summer driving, we do not really notice much difference. Yes, if we are paying attention, we may notice the temperature difference. Many people just roll up the windows and run the A/C.

On a bicycle, I notice the difference in rolling resistance, how much easier it is to go over concrete than over blacktop. However, in a car, you never notice the difference. I doubt that anyone has studied to see what the difference is in gas mileage. You just drive on what is there.

Another difference that you may not notice right away is durability. 

I remember driving on 60-year-old and 70-year-old concrete streets that were still in decent shape. Then the city put blacktop over them.

They say that blacktop will last 10-15 years. Generally, this is just an exaggeration. With blacktop over concrete, it is an outright lie: Old cracks come through in months.

On East Howry Avenue, it took but a few weeks for grass to grow through the new blacktop.

I can tell you that it was less than 60 years ago that they re-repaved Howry. Right, a second coat of blacktop on top of the first one that did not last, on top of now 90-year-old concrete, which was in decent but not great condition. I remember that paving job, because the cracks came through so fast.

The reality is that concrete roads cost more to build. Sure, they last four or five times as long, but that rarely enters into it. The government employees talking about how much they save with blacktop will not be here in a decade. And when was the last time you saw one mayor or commissioner last 60 years?

Politicians and managers just do not last 60 years. That is why a solution that appears cheap today is almost always chosen. 

Indeed, if they are thinking about it at all, you know what they are thinking — the sooner it needs repaving, the sooner is another kickback opportunity.

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.


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