Winter rains, a stalled economy and the cost of reconstruction have caused Santa Clarita to cut corners on its road repairs.
This week, work crews began putting 1 1/2-inch-deep asphalt onto primary city streets and pouring a thinner, cheaper slurry mix of asphalt and sand onto residential roads.
"A conscious decision has been made due to our limited resources to concentrate . . . on the main thoroughfares," said civil engineer Kit Nell.
With less money available from the sale of building permits, Santa Clarita is attempting to use the cheaper slurry as much as possible.
"It allows us to do much more of our city streets. Even though some of them may be worse than the slurry seal can handle, at least we're prolonging the life of the road," said Assistant City Engineer Curtis Nay.
Santa Clarita has hired Roy Allan Slurry Seal Inc. to apply the slurry, paying the firm $378,000. Work is being conducted in all four of Santa Clarita's communities and should be finished by November.
"If we can save 80% of the local streets, we think we're doing a good job," Nell said.
Crews will shore up the 1/8-inch slurry, which Nell says is little more than "real thick paint," by filling in road cracks with a rubberized sealant of melted scrap tires before the slurry is applied.
That doubles the cost of the work but is still significantly cheaper than the overlay process.
Once considered an experimental paving material, the recycled tire sealant has become more common, with the California Department of Transportation now required to use a minimum amount of the substance in state roads.
Santa Clarita has also had to contend with the impact of heavy storms last winter. Rains caused minor damage to local roads but diverted workers from preparing roads for treatment to fix storm damage.
Nell said Santa Clarita has worked with Los Angeles County and hired temporary help to overcome the shortage of workers and perform the preparatory work.