River_road_gunk2Merchants say the tarry road gunk is being tracked into their stores.


Whatever it is that’s holding together the pavement on River Road’s north side, Gourmet Picnic co-owner Michael O’Brien doesn’t like seeing it tracked into his store.

“I personally have gotten down on my hands and knees to clean it up,” O’Brien said of the sticky, tar-like substance that some patrons have imprinted onto the hardwood floor in his coffee shop and bakery at River and Fair Haven roads.

Next store at River Road Books, a few black stains remain on the store’s carpet, even though co-owner Sharon Everett and others have done their best to remove them.

“Some tar has been tracked in. The streaks of tar are really hot,” Everett said. “It’s so annoying.”

Borough officials are no less displeased. Last week, the town’s governing body authorized its attorney to take legal action against Earle Asphalt, the paving contractor responsible for recent road and sidewalk improvements in the historic business district, to get out the gunk.

It’s the latest jab in a yearlong fight with with Earle over the $500,000 streetscape job.

According to officials, the sticky, black stuff emanates from the product used by Earle to seal the River Road’s blacktop to joints near the concrete forming several parallel parking spots along the north side. The visible black seam runs parallel to several businesses including Gourmet Picnic, the bookstore, and Flair Cleaners.

It seems the seam melts on hot days, says to Borough Business Administrator Mary Howell.

“The business owners say it sticks to (customers’) shoes,” Howell says.

The tacky black seam and cracks in a new “tyre grip” road surface are the two outstanding defects that town officials want corrected by Earle and by T&M Associates of Middletown, the engineering firm that designed the much-beleaguered Fair Haven streetscape.

The tyre grip is designed to calm vehicular traffic as it passes through the River Road streetscape area between Fair Haven Road and Oak Place, a 35 mph zone.

“It’s definitely slowed traffic down,” Howell says — but perhaps a bit too much thanks to the cracking of the surface. “It creates a gritty feeling.”

Despite having reached the boiling point with Earle’s faulty workmanship, borough and Monmouth County officials met earlier this month with representatives of the Farmingdale-based paving contractor to brainstorm suggestions for solving the problems.

Representatives of T&M attended, as did Howell, Mayor Mike Halfacre, Rich Gardella, the borough’s in-house engineer of eight months, and Borough Attorney Sal Alfieri.

Even with Gardella on board for the town at $95,000 yearly, T&M remains involved until the streetscape is completed to town and county officials’ satisfaction as stated in contract the engineering signed with the borough in 2006, Howell says.

“It’s their project and their design,” she says. “They’re here until the job gets done.”

T&M has not yet submitted any bills for the extra work on the streetscape, says Howell, who indicated that she is unsure if or how much the firm will get paid.

Over the course of two meetings between the parties earlier this month, town officials and Earle and T&M representatives discussed possible fixes, one of which included milling down the roadway, repaving it, reapplying the sealant to the current joints and topping off the asphalt with a newer tyre grip, Howell said.

A second solution, focusing on the sticky sealant, would have Earle crews “saw cutting” the joints along the roadside where the asphalt meets the sidewalk. A new epoxy that would allow for expansion in warmer temperatures would be used to reseal the joints.

While not pleased with the prospect of River Road being closed for Earle to fix the problems, Everett believes most of her customers will still come in.

“At the end of the day, people are used to it now,” she said.

Looking outside the window of his store, O’Brien pointed out a few other faults in the streetscape, particularly the sidewalk where he has set up tables and chairs for patrons wishing to eat outdoors.

“There’s two different colors on the sidewalk,” O’Brien pointed out. “One side is gray and the other side is tan. For the town to spend all that money, it’s kind of an embarrassment.”

The placement of four black stanchion traffic light poles, one at each of the four corners, right on the sidewalks is a bit disconcerting, too, O’Brien said.

But most of all, O’Brien believes borough officials need to take pains to prevent the flooding that takes over the busy intersection when heavy rains fall.

“When it rains, there’s a huge puddle there,” O’Brien says. “When winter comes along and it gets cold, there’s going to be ice.”

Despite legal action undertaken by Alfieri to go after the ten-percent bond previously posted by Earle, officials look forward to seeing the contractor fix the outstanding issues.

“We’re just working to get the project done,” Howell says.

Once the sealant and tyre grip issues get settled, the borough expects to extend the streetscape in stages eastward to the Rumson border, Howell said.

Email this story