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Ezra Reyes
Ezra Reyes

Black Tar Road



Spend a good amount of time driving, especially in rural areas, and you've probably noticed those messy-looking black squiggles that cut across asphalt road surfaces in what seems like haphazard fashion. But rest assured that they're not simply the result of some sloppy tar work by a road crew that decided to have a few beers before the end of the shift.




Black Tar Road


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Instead, what you're noticing is crack sealing. It's a time-honored technique for remedying the damaged road surfaces, without inflicting even more pain upon taxpayers by tearing up and repaving the entire road.


In the arcane, highly technical world of road maintenance, there seem to be as many different types of cracks as there are types of snow in Finland. One of the most unsightly is fatigue cracking, which turns the highway into something resembling an alligator's hide, and which usually requires an extensive repair job. Another type of damage, reflection cracking, results from movement between the road's asphalt and concrete layers, and looks more like a jagged gash. There's also edge cracking, in which rows of wavy, curved cracks parallel the road shoulder.


While the black stuff that you see on the roads looks like tar, these days it's more likely to be some sort of high-performance polymer-asphalt mix, designed to form a bond that's flexible enough to keep the road from cracking even more. Crews apply it to the fissures with a device that looks vaguely like a vacuum sweeper hose.


When I hear "wicked" I think of the Broadway musical. When I heard the Wicked Streatery food truck was in Cape Coral, I flew over the bridge like Elphaba leaving Emerald City. Following the black-tar road, I found grilled cheese with fried green tomatoes and bacon, a dish as glorious as it sounds. The Korean tacos with kimchi slaw and gochujang shrimp will have me skipping back for more. It was that wicked good.


If you've ever found yourself driving down a long stretch of rural highway for any length of time, your eyes have probably wandered. First to the (maybe desolate) landscape. Then to the other cars whose license plates might have meaning. Then, after several hours in the car going slower than you'd like, you find yourself staring at the road: miles and miles of pavement only broken up by dark squiggles of black "tar".


Asphalt (also known as bitumen outside of the US) is a semi-solid petroleum product. It's sticky, black, and highly viscous. About 70% of asphalt is used in road construction in the form of asphalt concrete (commonly referred to simply as asphalt, blacktop, and pavement in the US). It's is also used to pave parking lots, outside basketball courts, as well as bituminous waterproofing products like roofing felt and sealing flat roofs. Asphalt concrete consists of mineral aggregate particles and an asphalt binder.


In Pennsylvania, we're accustomed to road construction and, well, roads that should probably be under construction. Because we have our fair share of roadways, we have more than our fair share of cracks, ruts, swelling, potholes, and weathering. Sometimes just leaving your front door means you're in for a bumpy ride.


There are many causes of road degradation. Pavement may develop cracks from stress, seasonal changes in temperature, design and construction flaws, base erosion, and even the sun. And just as there are many causes of surface failure, there are many different types of cracks and distress. Alligator cracking, block cracking, and edge cracks are quite common sights while on long road trips.


As these cracks develop, it's important to take care of the problem. However, a complete overhaul of the roadway would be very expensive. That's where the crack sealing comes in. Rather than putting down a new overlay surface, crews can seal the cracks. The substance crews use isn't really tar, even though it sure looks like it. Typically, it's a high-performance polymer-asphalt mix specially-designed to form a flexible bond capable of preventing further cracking.


While crack sealing certainly helps prevent cracks from worsening, the process is not without its flaws. For one, it doesn't really make the road any smoother in most cases. In fact, some motorcyclists complain these patches cause both accidents and damage to bikes.


As a temporary fix, highway construction crews fill the cracks with the tar-based sealant. It prevents water from getting into the cracks and it postpones the need for more expensive road repair. The repairs often result in random, windy lines of tar that resemble snakes; hence, the name black-tar snakes.


The most basic way state and local transportation departments can decide whether to pave a road with concrete or to go with asphalt is pretty simple: Asphalt costs less initially, but concrete lasts longer.


The overall trend of rising oil prices since 2000 has raised the price of asphalt and reduced its price advantage over concrete, but 93% of paved roads are still made of asphalt, according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association.


Roadway segments with high turning movements and stopping points also present some disadvantages for asphalt since it is prone to tearing under these stresses. But even this is not a black-and-white matter. Harder oils can be used in asphalt mixes to reduce rutting, but this can also make the asphalt more brittle. Likewise, the wrong oil in an asphalt mixture can lead to cracking in extreme cold and rutting in extreme heat.


Harsh winter conditions present some disadvantages for concrete. The darker asphalt pavement warms up as sunlight hits a plowed roadway, and Mother Nature helps melt away any snow left behind by plows. Salt used for snow removal also can eat away at concrete, so some municipalities opt for a no-salt policy for the first winter or two after a concrete road is built. Read about how high friction pavement treatments increase tire grip around curves during bad weather.


There are trade-offs between concrete and asphalt, as you have identified. Asphalt initially has a very smooth surface and does not provide the textured surface as tined concrete does, thus improving traction. The benefits of concrete in identifying black ice would only be experienced during daylight, thus making this a less viable factor in pavement type selection. Unfortunately poor pavement marking is due to inadequate frequency of re-striping, which is often a budgetary issue. We appreciate your Michigan perspective, Teri.


We recently started a paving company and came across this article. It offers some great insight as to the advantages of going with asphalt versus concrete. For example, here in the Pacific Northwest, salt and crushed cinder get used on the roads in the winter, and the fact that asphalt stand tougher makes it a good selling point to potential customers. Writing about asphalt and making it entertaining while informative is not easy to do.We will reference this article for years to come. You managed to get the job done. Thanks.


At some point, you likely drove your car on a road with weird, squiggly, snake-like black tar lines. The black tar lines are especially common on rural roads. These lines often appear to meander across the asphalt haphazardly, with no rhyme or reason to where they go. It might seem like these black tar lines are a result of sloppy road construction work. However, they serve an important purpose for road maintenance.\u00a0\n\n\n\nWhy do road construction crews put black tar lines on roads?\n\n\n\nBlack tar lines on a road Robert Michael\/picture alliance via Getty Images\n\n\n\nThe purpose of the black tar lines is to seal cracks in the road. The black tar lines are a relatively quick and inexpensive way to repair damaged road surfaces, compared to tearing up and repaving the entire road.\n\n\n\nAs detailed by How Stuff Works, while the lines in the road look like tar, they usually are a \u201chigh-performance polymer-asphalt mix, designed to form a bond that\u2019s flexible enough to keep the road from cracking even more.\u201d Road construction crews \u201capply it to the fissures with a device that looks vaguely like a vacuum sweeper hose.\u201d\n\n\n\nWhat causes cracks to form on roads?\n\n\n\nCracks on a road Harmandeep Singh via Unsplash\n\n\n\n\nCracks on roads form when \u201cstress builds up in the surface layer that exceeds the tensile strength of the asphalt.\u201d The road stress is the result of the pounding of traffic over time. Also, cracks form when the road expands and contracts during seasonal changes in temperature. This is why you\u2019ll often see cracks, as well as potholes, form in the road in the spring, as temperatures rise following a cold winter. \n\n\n\nAnother cause of road cracks is design and construction flaws. Examples include a weak base underneath the road and not enough drainage for rainfall.\n\n\n\nWhat are cracks in the road called?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThere are many different types of road cracks \u2014 and they have many different names. One type is fatigue cracking, which looks like an alligator\u2019s hide. This usually requires extensive repairs. Another road crack is called edge cracking, which is rows of wavy cracks that are parallel to the road shoulder.\n\n\n\nA third type is reflection cracking, which \u201cresults from movement between the road\u2019s asphalt and concrete layers, and looks more like a jagged gash.\u201d Additional road crack types include block cracking, longitudinal cracking, transverse cracking, slippage cracks, and joint reflection cracks.\n\n\n\nCost of black tar to repair road cracks vs. resurfacing an entire road\n\n\n\nAs noted earlier, one of the benefits of using black tar to repair road cracks is that it is considerably more inexpensive than tearing up and resurfacing an entire road. In 2008, the Texas Engineering Extension Service at Texas A&M University did a study on the cost of road repair. It estimated that crack sealing \u201ccosts about $2,500 per mile of road, compared to $60,000 for putting down an overlay surface.\u201d \n\n\n\nAlso, \u201cin 2016, the City of Littleton, Colorado, estimated that crack sealing cost about $5,500 per lane mile, while overlaying cost approximately $320,000 per lane mile.\u201d\n\n\n\nMotorcyclists call the black lines on the road tar snakes\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\tRelated\n\t\n\t\t\n\t\t\tCustom Porsche 911: Black Paint so Dark, You Can\u2019t See It at Night \u2014 World\u2019s Darkest\t\t\n\t\n\nThe black tar lines help maintain the quality of roads and prevent them from deteriorating further. However, some motorcyclists call the lines tar snakes and express concerns that they damage bikes and cause accidents. The Bikebandit humorously states, \u201cThe tar snake is a nasty species found across the country that has an appetite for motorcyclists. Find out what these are, and what to do when you encounter them, so you don\u2019t end up a victim when they bite!\u201d\n\n\n\nThis article was updated on 7\/20\/2022.\n\n\n","ptime":"2022-07-20T20:13:00","custom_date":"","custom_datedesc":"","author":"name":"Mark Putzer","slug":"mark-putzer","url":"https:\/\/www.motorbiscuit.com\/author\/mark-putzer\/","twitter_link":null,"facebook_link":null,"linkedin_link":"https:\/\/linkedin.com\/in\/markputzer\/","instagram_link":null,"comment_count":0,"review_schema":" Robert Michael\\\/picture alliance via Getty Images The purpose of the black tar lines is to seal cracks in the road. The black tar lines are a relatively quick and inexpensive way to repair damaged road surfaces, compared to tearing up and repaving the entire road. As detailed by How Stuff Works, while the lines in the road look like tar, they usually are a \\u201chigh-performance polymer-asphalt mix, designed to form a bond that\\u2019s flexible enough to keep the road from cracking even more.\\u201d Road construction crews \\u201capply it to the fissures with a device that looks vaguely like a vacuum sweeper hose.\\u201d What causes cracks to form on roads? Cracks on a road "},"reco_next_pid":1424450};img#wpstatsdisplay:none "@context": " ", "@type": "Blog", "mainEntityOfPage": "@type": "WebPage", "@id": " -snake-black-tar-lines-roads/" , "headline": "What Are the Weird Snake-Like Black Tar Lines on Roads?", "datePublished": "2022-07-20T20:13:00-0400", "dateModified": "2022-07-20T20:13:10-0400", "author": "@type": "Person", "name": "Mark Putzer", "jobTitle": "Staff Writer, Producer - Trucks, SUVs, & Crossovers", "url": " -putzer/" , "publisher": "@type": "Organization", "name": "MotorBiscuit", "description": "Pure Autos" , "description": "You likely drove your car on a road with weird, squiggly, snake-like black tar lines. 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The black tar lines are especially common on rural roads. These lines often appear to meander across the asphalt haphazardly, with no rhyme or reason to where they go. It might seem like these black tar lines are a result of sloppy road construction work. However, they serve an important purpose for road maintenance. 041b061a72


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