Maine DOT suspends sealing program after concerns of slippery roads

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ROME, Maine (WABI) - A program aimed at maintaining roads by using a road sealant has been suspended by the Maine Department of Transportation.

It comes on the heels of a complaint about slippery road conditions and multiple crashes on a stretch of Route 225 in Rome treated with the seal.

Between long winters and big trucks, Maine's roads get beat up.

The Maine Department of Transportation uses a number of methods to maintain the roads -- including fog seal.

"It's called fog seal because when it's applied, it creates a bit of a fog," said Maine DOT Public Information Officer Paul Merrill. "And what this does is essentially seals up imperfections in pavement to get it to last a little bit longer."

The sealant was applied in June to a stretch of Route 225 in Rome after some imperfections were seen following last year's repaving.

According to Merrill, about 11 lanes miles (or, 5.6 miles in each direction) were repaved. Of that, three lane miles were fog-sealed.

But since then, multiple crashes have been reported, causing folks to ask the DOT if slippery conditions are to blame on the seal.

"That stretch of road was a high crash location before we paved it," said Merrill. "We paved it to try to make it better. We wonder whether inadvertently people are driving faster on it because it's in a better condition now. But there have been some crashes. We're trying to see right now whether those crashes were because of the application of the fog seal."

Merrill says that they're looking into the matter but "out of an abundance of caution" they have suspended the program on mainline roads and are in the process of milling up that stretch of Route 225.

"We're still looking into it, but it appears in this case that it was an over-application," said Merrill. "Essentially too much of the sealant went down and it made the road a little bit more slippery."

He says that the goal above all is to keep drivers safe.

"We want to make sure that going forward if we use this sealant again, it is absolutely applied properly and there are no issues with people being able to drive on it safely," said Merrill.