Motorists this afternoon may want to avoid 19th Street between Tennessee and Massachusetts streets as construction crews attempt to clean up a sticky situation.
The stretch of 19th Street has a noticeable coating of black “tack oil” that inadvertently was spread by private contractors working to repave a section of Tennessee Street.
Motorists have been driving over the oil, and it could stick to tires or other parts of the vehicle. City officials said the oil shouldn’t cause permanent damage to any vehicles, but they are suggesting that motorists consider taking their vehicles to a car wash.
“The longer you wait to wash it off, the harder it will be to get off,” said Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works.
Thiel said the incident occurred as part of work to repave Tennessee Street from 10th to 19th streets. Tack oil was being spread on that stretch of road to help new asphalt better adhere to the old asphalt. But construction crews were driving their trucks over the tack oil for many blocks at a time and then were driving on 19th Street. The oil from the tires started rubbing off onto 19th Street.
“It really is a small amount, but it looks like a lot because it has turned everything black,” Thiel said.
Crews originally were instructed by the city to drive only for short distance on the tack oil in an effort to cut back on the amount of oil that was tracked onto other city streets. But those instructions weren’t followed, and as a result, Thiel said the contractor will be responsible for cleaning up the oil and paying for any repairs needed.
Lawrence-based Sunflower Paving is the contractor on the project. Thiel said the most likely repairs would be replacement of pavement markings that have been stained by the oil.
As for vehicle damage, Thiel said the nature of the oil should make it unlikely that vehicles had their paint jobs damaged by the oil. He said the oil is so sticky that it usually doesn’t splash upward when driven on. The oil does stick to tires, but usually rubs off after a couple of miles, Thiel said.