When Fulton County paved 2½ miles of roadway a couple of years ago, the Indiana Department of Transportation had the same contractor apply the same mix to one of its roads a short distance away, according to Fulton County Highway Superintendent John Geier.
The county then went a step further and had the surface of its road sprayed with a protective sealant made of soybean and other agricultural oils, along with natural polymers, he said.
While the county road is more heavily traveled, it has held up better than the state's road over the past couple of years, Geier said.
"You can see it working," he said of the sealant.
Encouraged by testimonials like this, Porter County recently became one of just a few areas around the state to invest the extra money in the sealant in hopes it will pay off by extending the life of roadways and reduce the need to undertake costly repaving projects, according to Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North.
The county recently paid $17,000 per mile to have the sealant sprayed on mile-long sections of Meridian Road, from U.S. 6 to County Road 900 North, and County Road 500 West, from Division Road to County Road 100 North, he said.
"There's a cost in that," Biggs said. "But that cost is moderate as compared to what it would cost ($90,000) to pave a mile of road."
The sealant is called Biorestor. It's made in nearby Ohio and used around the world, said Lisa Harris, owner of the Columbia City, Indiana-based distributor, Roadway Bioseal.
Biorestor, a sealant and rejuvenator, works by permeating the asphalt and combating cracking and disintegration, she said. Once asphalt cracks, water is allowed to enter, which results in further deterioration during the freeze and thaw cycles that occur in Indiana.
These problems with asphalt have worsened over time as market demands have driven down quality, Harris said. When Biorestor is applied to new pavement or older pavement of a high-enough quality level, it can take the life of a roadway back up to as much as 20 years, she said.
"When do you see a 20-year road anymore?" she asked.
Biorestor is a green product that is 100 percent natural and agriculture based, she said. It is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bio-Based and Bio-Preferred Product list.
Biggs said the product has an orange or pine cone scent.
Harris said her company, the local distributor, has applied it on roadways in Fulton and Kosciusko counties and in Plainfield. She has also applied it in Cass County, Michigan.
Attempts to reach highway officials in Lake and LaPorte counties for comment were unsuccessful.
Biggs said he was led to the product after researching another road sealant made from plastic waste collected from the oceans. While that product is used in Canada and Europe, he said he could not find a distributor for local application.
This is not Porter County's first shot at alternative roadway sealants. Biggs said a rubber-based material was applied to County Road 700 North between Airport and Willowcreek roads in Portage Township in the 1990s.
"The results were stunning," he said.
But the rising cost of petroleum has left the product cost prohibitive, which led to the county to test out Biorestor. If Biorestor works as promised, or even if the county has to go back to the more expensive rubber-based product, Biggs said he sees a day when the extra investment is made on all county roadways to prolong their lives.
"With all things considered, it would be worth the investment," he said.
Geier said the sealant appears to solve the big problem of water penetrating the surface of roadways along the center line where the two separate paths of asphalt meet.
"The weakest point in your road is your center joint," he said.
Geier said he is happy so far with the results of Biorestor and was to have the company return Tuesday to apply it on a heavily-traveled section of roadway being repaved this week in a Fulton County business park.
But more time is needed to tell if the extra investment really pays off.
"The jury's still out on it," he said.