My local city added a fresh batch of tar snakes on the roads today. Why is it that they need to spread a 2" wide stream of tar to fill a 1/4" crack in the road? It seems to me that it would save on a lot of tar if they were a little more efficient and only filled the crack.
While doing my summer job with the D.O.T. the year I graduated high school, I got loaned out to the "Roadsavers" crew (a private company contracted to do the work) for 2 or 3 days as a flagger. Long, hard days, and I was only carrying a sign.
Anyway, I observed the way the work was done, and I'll just say this: I'd like to see anyone pour hot liquid tar (actually it's a rubberized sealing compound) into a crack and not have it spread out a little on either side. They want to fill the crack all the way to the top and then some, too, because they don't want water pooling in there again after they fill it. There was also a guy who came along behind the guy pouring the tar, throwing dust (Portland cement, I think) down on the freshly poured tar so that it wouldn't stick to cars' tires and get pulled out.
As with most things in life, there is a lot more to the seemingly simple task of filling cracks in the road than is apparent to the outsider. Each crack would get gouged out by a machine that looked a lot like a rear-tine rototiller, then blown clean with a leaf blower, presumably to encourage better adhesion. Then it would get filled with tar, by hand. There was one guy who did all the tar pouring - he was the expert at it, and it probably took more skill to do well than it appeared.
Yeah, tar snakes can definitely cause bikes to exhibit some squirrely behaviour, but it's a lot cheaper than fulling repaving a road, or even chipsealing it, and keeps the road from deteriorating even more. I'd sooner deal with tar snakes than big potholes.