More than 35 miles on nine Maine roads have been treated over the past five years with road sealant that state transportation officials say they will stop using out of concern the sealant can create slippery driving conditions.

The Maine Department of Transportation said Monday it would stop using the low-cost repair sealant after reviewing reports of crashes, including a serious accident on Route 225 in Rome this September involving Tom Streznewski of Belgrade.

Streznewski, 58, said he thinks the DOT’s statewide ban on fog sealant is a great idea. Though Streznewski was not injured in the crash, the state trooper who responded to the accident said he was surprised to find Streznewski alive after seeing the extensive damage to his vehicle.

This photo shows the sealant that was applied to the pavement on Route 225 in Rome, where Tom Streznewski of Belgrade was involved in a serious accident in September.

“I think (the DOT) is correct in what they stated — that if there’s no standards for application, then they shouldn’t use it because it’s so slippery when it’s wet,” Streznewski said. “So I’m glad they decided to discontinue use of that and take another approach. It was only a matter of time before somebody got killed.”

The initially laid pavement on Route 225 in Rome likely needed attention earlier than anticipated because its application, like the use of fog sealant, is not “an exact science,”according to Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Merrill.

Fog seal is diluted asphalt that gets sprayed onto roads as a protective layer. The product is a lower-cost alternative to more extensive road repairs, which can cost from $50,000 for repaving to millions of dollars for a full rebuild, according to the transportation department.

Merrill said this week that the 35 miles of roads treated with fog sealant were contracted out in seven projects. Of those projects, two led to dangerous motor vehicle crashes in which a slick surface was found to be a factor. One took place on Route 225 in Rome this September, when Streznewski’s truck lost traction, rolled over and was punctured by a fallen tree. Another occurred on Route 3 in Bar Harbor, when a dump truck Guy Edwards was driving lost control going down a hill, spun around and crashed into a garage, the Mount Desert Islander reported in October 2018. The sealant in Rome (2.56 miles) and in Bar Harbor (0.85 miles) has since been ground off.

“That was all the fog-sealant applied on those areas,” Merrill said. “Route 3 was resurfaced in 2019, and Route 225 will be resurfaced in 2020.”

The other fog seal projects in the state include 3.77 miles of Route 1 in Fort Kent; 2.34 miles of Route 11 in Wallagrass; 8.32 miles on Route 231  in North Yarmouth, Gray, New Gloucester, which were all done in 2014, according to Merrill. In 2015, 2.59 miles of Route 2 in Gilead and Bethel were coated with sealant and in 2016, 13.543 miles of Route 5 from Hiram to Fryeburg received the fog seal, as well as 4.08 miles on Routes 112 and 26A in Gorham and Gray.

There are no plans to remove the sealant on those roads and Merrill said it is safe to drive on them.

“We take the safety of the roadways very seriously and do not believe there is cause for concern regarding the other applications,” he said, referring to the roads that are not in Rome or Bar Harbor.

“Those applications were completed several years ago and were applied on an older pavement that has a higher rate of absorption. If there had been any over-application at the time, it would have since been absorbed or worn away. We have not received any reports of slippery conditions on these roadways either.”

SHOem Roadway Services, based in South Berwick, applied the fog seal on Route 225 in June. The pavement was laid by Pike Industries Inc. in 2018, according to Merrill.

A representative of Pike Industries in Fairfield and the company-wide sales team did not respond to multiple requests for a comment last week on how many years pavement jobs like the one on Route 225 are supposed to last. Merrill said that the state agency does “a lot of work with (Pike Industries) all the time” in an October interview.

The process of applying fog seal involves “a lot of eyeballing” and relies on the manual change of a nozzle to control flow, according to Merrill. In Rome and in Bar Harbor, Merrill said overapplication of the material was the main problem, though other factors — including the temperature and grade of the road — contributed to the incident in Bar Harbor.

“A lot of the work depends on the individual judgement of the contractor and our on-site inspector,” Merrill wrote in an email to the Morning Sentinel. “Some pavement lasts longer than we expect it to; some needs attention the year after it was applied. We work hard to ensure that surfaces and roads are safe and passable even though they need more thorough — and costly — treatments.

“We work with contractors to try to fix any problems that may arise. In Rome, we agreed to have the contractor cover the pavement with fog seal rather than remove the work and redo it. Adding cover is often a better option for the traveling public because taking out pavement and replacing it disrupts travel for a longer period of time.”

Fog sealant has been found to create slick road conditions outside of Maine as well. Officials in Pocatello, Idaho, said the material caused two car crashes in August, one of which left a woman with a serious head injury, according to the Idaho State Journal.

A representative for the Federal Highway Administration, said they were unaware of other incidents in the country that have been attributed to fog seal. The agency does not oversee state projects, but publishes documents that advise on the proper use of various road-related materials and methods — including fog seal.

“Although FHWA provides certain guidance through training and sharing best practices, state departments of transportation are responsible for maintenance and make decisions as to what road treatments are used,” the official wrote in an email.

Merrill said Maine is forced to use short-term solutions to fix problems with roads because of a lack of funding. He likened the use of fog sealant to “putting icing on a moldy cake.”

“Almost all of the discussions we have about state infrastructure lead back to one important point: MaineDOT is facing an annual unmet need of approximately $232 million,” he wrote Monday. “That means a lot of the state’s roads and bridges are not getting the full attention they deserve.

“We continue to urge lawmakers to find a bipartisan and sustainable solution to the department’s persistent funding problems or we’ll be left to responsibly manage the slow decline of the state’s infrastructure.”

Voters statewide approved $105 million in bonds for road and bridge construction projects in November’s election.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.