The County of Haliburton is exploring using thermoplastics to help prevent snowmobiles from wearing down roads during the winter.
The municipal roads committee discussed the idea during its June 12 meeting.
It opted to explore grant opportunities to implement a pilot project for the plastic compound. The substance is applied to snowmobile crossings to reduce the damage they can cause to roads over time.
Coun. Brent Devolin said it would be a good idea to speak to the Ontario Good Roads Association about funding a pilot. He added snowmobiles harming roadways is not a unique issue to Haliburton.
“We see it all over Ontario,” he said.
The method is used in the northeastern United States but not in Ontario. A 2015 University of Minnesota study found crossings with the coating had minimal damage compared to those without it.
Although the study cost more than $10,000, the county that took part “anticipates future cost savings because the protection offered by the coating will reduce the need to repair the roadway in the crossing area.”
Haliburton County Snowmobile Association director of community relations John Enright said it is an idea worth exploring.
“There are 30,000 kilometres of snowmobile trails in Ontario so this is an issue every municipality and county is dealing with. There is not one solution that will work at crossings because of costs,” he said. “It works … but it’s big, big dollars.”
The cost of the coating made county staff skeptical. In a written report, engineering assistant David Thaler said local industry does not think the thermoplastics will hold up against the carbide studs of snowmobiles.
The estimated cost of replacing asphalt crossings is $4,000 to $5,000 compared to an estimated cost of $6,000 to $9,500 to implement thermoplastics due to a limited number of contractors who can apply it.
“It seems like an expensive experiment,” director of public works Craig Douglas said. “I’m not sure the county, with all its challenges, wants to play around with this too. Too much we have to do.”
Coun. Patrick Kennedy agreed with Devolin about doing a pilot project if grant funding can be found.
“We get complaints on the roads all the time,” Kennedy said. “Not sure how often we actually replace that asphalt.”