Des Moines Public Works uses ‘microsurfacing’ to extend life of city roads with shorter closures

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Warmer weather months mean construction season and road closures. Des Moines Public Works has figured out a way to prolong the life of city streets without shutting them down for long periods of time. It’s called microsurfacing.

A machine called a “Macropaver” puts down microsurfacing material, which is a mixture made up of Portland cement, rock, asphalt, oil, and water.

Brian Hommer, a medium equipment operator with Des Moines Public Works, said it’s designed to seal and waterproof the street with the goal of prolonging the life of the pavement by helping with potholes and cracks.

“It benefits the residents because they can get into the properties a lot quicker,” Hommer said. “We don’t have to close streets down for weeks at a time. We’re here one day, we’re gone the next, we’re on to the next job so it’s really fast-paced. So hopefully we can get a lot of preventative maintenance done to the city and help the residents keep their streets better longer.”

He calls it a preventative measure, as crews go through the streets and pick the ones where it’s been three to five years since they’ve been paved and work on them. 

It takes about four to five people to complete the job: driver, operator, and people doing touch-ups behind the machine. Crew members say there’s a science behind microsurfacing.

“Operating on the back of that truck, you almost have to be a chemist. You got to watch the mixtures and everything like that,” Hommer said.

This isn’t a new process, but the third-season crews have been using this fast-setting material that can last up to 12 years.

Last year before the derecho, crews microsurfaced nearly 100,000 square yards. So far this year, they’ve already done nearly 65,000 square yards since May. 

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