Always a handy excuse, blame it on too much beer. Due to the lack of docking and unloading space in the Campustown area, beer distributors unload hundreds of kegs each year at that spot next to the firehouse. Over time, heavy kegs hitting the pavement damaged the concrete, causing impact damage points, and then larger cracks formed throughout the sidewalk. In an entirely unique sense, the alcohol was taking its toll.
Looking for a flexible solution, the city jumped on rubber sidewalks.
"Once we were to the point of having to replace the damage, we knew we would run into that problem again with concrete," said Corey Mellies, civil engineer for the city's public works department.
A relatively new product from Rubbersidewalks Inc., a California based company, was chosen. The pre-formed sidewalk pavers are made of shredded recycled tires. Originally developed as an alternative to concrete to reduce sidewalk damage from tree roots in urban areas, in Ames' case they will reduce keg damage.
A sample in the Public Works office at City Hall was dark gray, textured to resemble concrete on the top surface, and about 2 inches thick and rigid.
Mellies smiled a little when asked if the city had tested the product. "Yes, at the shop. The streets supervisor took a sledge hammer to it. And we've tried dropping a bucket of cold patch on it, too, trying to dent or break it. It didn't," Mellies said the manufacturer claims a materials life similar to that of concrete, and it stands up to cold climates well.
The total cost of the rubber sidewalk including installation is approximately $127 per square yard. A 6-inch reinforced concrete section would have cost about $60 per square yard. Mellies said staff expects a reduction in long term maintenance to offset the additional costs. Also, according to information from the company, approximately 675 tires were diverted from the landfill for the project.