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New invention for rural roads shows promise

Now here is an invention that will improve lives — a product that can help reduce ruts and wear on dirt roads that crisscross this rural state of ours.

As The (Santa Fe) New Mexican’s Anne Constable reported last week, former real estate agent Bob Sherwin has worked for years to find a product that can help maintain roads in a more ecologically friendly way. A first go-round called RoadPacker worked around the globe, but not so well in New Mexico, where the soil content has a high pH level.

The product’s inventor, Australian Alan Sonnenburg, has developed a new formula that could work in all types of soil.

The new formula turns dirt to stone, making it impermeable to water. In nature, the process — called lithification — occurs over centuries. Not with the new technology. It works overnight, courtesy of accelerants.

Sherwin’s company, Bionic Soil Solutions LLC, just worked on 11 miles of rural roads on the Navajo Nation. Come winter snowstorms and summer thundershowers, the roads shouldn’t have the deep ruts that can ruin trucks and shake a body to the core.

People won’t get stuck at home because of impassable roads. Crews won’t have to head out to smooth the way for vehicles, saving money and time.

Paving the roads would cost $2 million a mile, but the new mix is about $230,000 a mile, a cheaper alternative.

When the roads are less remote than those on the far-flung reservation, the costs will be even cheaper.

The product works on the three elements of soil — oxygen, silicon and aluminum — which combine to form aluminosilicate. Add Bionic Soil, and the aluminosilicates turn into a gel that doesn’t let water seep through.

What that means for cash-strapped rural governments, whether the Navajo Nation or counties, is huge.

Roads won’t need gravel and base coat, and counties might not need to operate expensive road equipment and hire so many workers to maintain the roads.

For rural residents, the ability to travel to and from work or school without navigating ruts would make life in the country more pleasant — not to mention cheaper, considering that car repairs add up.

Imagine being able to drive smoothly on a dirt road using cheaper, greener technology. Progress, indeed.

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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