A Lesson in Highway Science: Paganelli Details Road Paving Decisions

Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli takes residents behind the scenes, giving them a look into his decisions on paving. Credits: Brian Marschhauser
Areas in red are roads that are slated to be paved this summer. The map is preliminary and plans are subject to change.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of miles of road the highway department maintains. We regret the error.

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Class was in session at Town Hall last week, as Professor Dave Paganelli led a lecture in highway science.

The highway superintendent detailed the factors he and the town consider before deciding which roads in Yorktown to pave. After 30-minutes, at the end of the PowerPoint presentation, Paganelli said it was only his “Cliff Notes” version.

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The highway department, Paganelli said, maintains 203 miles of road.

No town money was spent on paving in 2010 and 2011. The town received federal windfalls totaling $1.4 million for 2012 and 2013, and began budgeting about $250,000 every year since 2014. Those funds, in addition to state funds Yorktown receives every year, are the department’s paving budget.

Based on 2014-16 allocations, it would take 37 years to pave every mile of road in Yorktown, Paganelli said. By contrast, the lifespan of asphalt is 12 to 15 years, he said.

“Roads paved in 2017 would most likely not be paved again until 2054, to put in perspective for you,” Paganelli said.

This year, the town has allocated $1.6 million for paving. That, combined with $538,000 from the state, means Yorktown will pave significantly more lane miles this summer than in years past.

So, how did Paganelli decide which roads will see new asphalt this summer?

Paganelli, who noted the list of roads is ever-evolving, said factors include input from residents; traffic count and average speed of a road; safety concerns with the present condition of the road; and the area of town. Paganelli said he prefers to spread out the paving as equally as possibly to all corners of town, rather than focus on one area.

“Yorktown has 38 square miles, five business hamlets, 12 residential hamlets,” Paganelli said. “Everybody has to wet their beak a little bit.”

This year, he prioritized paving areas on the southern and northern end of Yorktown, which, Paganelli said, “have been somewhat ignored for quite some time.”

“People often say to me: ‘Dave, what’s it cost to pave a mile of road?’” Paganelli said. “Well, it costs $120,000 to pave a mile of Hunterbrook Road, which is 19-feet wide. Strang Boulevard, between Oakside and Lee, which is 60-feet wide—this is simple math—costs three times as much.”

He also considers whether there are any planned projects for the roads. For example, energy and pipeline companies often need to tear up roads for construction purposes. The town is also hoping to have sewers installed in several areas of town. Paganelli said paving these roads knowing they are going to be ripped apart makes little sense.

“Is it a judicious use of funding to pave that and then in five years have it dug up for sewers? I think not,” he said.

Also factoring into the decision is what type of paving procedure the roads get. From least to most expensive, Paganelli said, options typically are laying down a coat on top of the existing surface; using a mill to rip up a few inches of road and then laying down a new coat; or a complete reconstruction of the road.

Paganelli said the “mill and fill” approach is the “correct way” to do paving; however, because Yorktown is behind schedule, he is opting to get the most bang for his buck by only laying down top coats this summer.

Milling roads is important in areas where there are a lot of curbs, Paganelli said.

“Those curbs were 6-8 inches when they were originally put, now they’re 3-4 inches, and that’s because we just keep putting layer on layer,” he said. “To address the iron in the road, we put risers on it, and it creates a whole other problem because now people are getting water in their driveways so we’ve got to go out and put lips on the driveways.”

In another attempt to save money, Paganelli is using paver-placed surface treatment instead of asphalt in some areas (Mohansic East Avenue and Underhill Avenue). The product consists of a warm polymer modified asphalt emulsion tack coat followed immediately with an ultra-thin hot mix asphalt. Earlier, Paganelli described it as “super glue for the roads.” The average lifespan of the product is 10 years, he said, but costs 30 to 35 percent less than asphalt.

“On this particular project, I think we’re saving $200,000, which is good, so then we can pave other things with it,” Paganelli said.

This summer, the highway department will also be doing fog line painting. This is intended to help motorists see the edge of the roadway at night.

“I think this will go a long way toward making our roads safer,” Paganelli said.

Going forward, Paganelli said, if the town budgets only half of what it is budgeting this year, Yorktown’s paving schedule would be cut in half to about 18-and-a-half years. This would make Yorktown “the envy of Westchester County,” he said.

Ilan Gilbert, Democratic candidate for supervisor, asked if the town would also consider installing reflector lights in the center lanes. Paganelli said those lights tend to be ripped up every winter by plows.

Melvyn Tanzman asked why the town stopped at $1.6 million. If the town has a healthy fund balance, he said, why not allocate more?

Paganelli said, in his opinion, it is not wise to deplete a fund balance in one fell swoop. It makes more sense, he said, to maintain a healthy fund balance and keep Yorktown on a good schedule for years to come.

Supervisor Michael Grace said some of those funds are also needed to purchase new highway trucks.

Paganelli said an exact schedule cannot be given because that also depends on many factors, such as the paver’s availability.

“It’s like herding cats,” he said. “It’s a constantly evolving scenario.”

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