ASPHALT ROAD CONSTRUCTION: Positive gain

Bill Wilson / March 10, 2011

Businesses preparing for a grand opening do not normally put a competitor in charge of a side exit.

But the road-building business is not always about taking the money out of the pocket of the closest threat. More often than not, rivals work together to keep the traveling customer satisfied.

On the Legacy Parkway project in Utah, the fast-moving patrons in the area were beyond taking their complaints to anyone who would hear them. A decade’s worth of waiting to no avail had taken a toll. The Parkway, however, was finally starting to take shape following years of environmental lawsuits, and prime contractor W.W. Clyde & Co. did not want anything else to get in its way—and neither did its top rival, Staker Parson Cos.

Working on an adjoining job—the Lain Gain project—Staker Parson wanted to make sure a main connector to the Legacy Parkway was open when W.W. Clyde was ready to flush the mainlines of its job with fresh traffic.

“One of the big wins for the [Lain Gain] project was how we were able to go in and coordinate with [W.W. Clyde], open up both segments of our project for construction so we could complete our work without affecting the Legacy work so that motorists could have a smooth transition from Legacy to our project,” Brandon LeFevre, general manager, South Region, for Staker Parson, told Roads & Bridges. “It took a lot of communication and a lot of good work from both contractors, but it was really a win for UDOT.”

It also called for a high-octane construction schedule on one of the busiest corridors in the state—I-15. Staker Parson not only made it in time for the premiere of the Legacy Parkway, but also found itself front and center in the most prestigious road construction awards program in the country. The National Asphalt Pavement Association’s Sheldon G. Hayes Award is presented to the contractor that produces the finest strip of asphalt, and in 2011 that claim belonged to the Utah road builder that wanted to be more accommodating than cutthroat.

“The project for us was just very successful and we were really proud of it and excited to be considered,” said LeFevre, who did not believe Staker Parson was ever a finalist in the Hayes Award competition.

The Sheldon G. Hayes Award winner is determined through a two-year process. Highway pavement projects using more than 50,000 tons of asphalt are eligible for consideration. Initially, they must win a Quality in Construction (QIC) Award, which is determined by numerical scores given by pavement engineers at the National Center for Asphalt Technology on the basis of how well the contractor met the specifications and achieved density on the finished pavement. All the pavements that meet a benchmark figure are given the QIC award.

The year after a project wins a QIC Award, it may be considered for the Hayes Award. The top-ranked projects from each year are tested for smoothness, then visually inspected by an independent pavement consultant with many years of experience in the industry. This year, the evaluators praised the contestants for high-quality construction practices resulting in smooth, safe and durable pavements.

From median to extra large

At 40 years old, the concrete pavement that blanketed I-15 was having an end-of-life crisis. Marred in pothole patches and sections that carried the telltale signs of slab repair, the six-lane thoroughfare also burdened the area with high-volume noise. The route was showing its age when it came to capacity, too, so the Utah DOT decided it wanted to transform the grassy median that ran down the middle of the highway into a fourth lane in each direction. The agency also decided it was going to get maximum use out of the extra pavement, designating them high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. The first move for Staker Parson was to pave an extra 5 ft of temporary lanes so it could adhere to a Utah DOT requirement of maintaining three lanes of traffic in each direction throughout the just under 9-mile work zone. Traffic was pushed to the outside of I-15 during the opening phase of construction.

Then the contractor tackled the median. Using a pair of Caterpillar 330 excavators, crews dug an average of 2 ft deep—removing a total of 129,000 cu yd of earth—to lay the foundation for the new HOV lanes. Areas that required the installation of a footing for the new barrier wall required an additional cut of 4 ft.

“We also had to excavate for the median barrier wall,” noted LeFevre. “There were three or four different kinds of barrier wall that we built in the median. Some of it had a pretty deep excavation for the foundation of the wall.”

Once the earthwork was complete crews dropped in a Tensar BX-4100 Geogrid to support a 7-in.-thick granular burrow, which was an engineered fill consisting of 3 in. minus aggregate. Another layer of the Tensar Geogrid followed, which was covered with a 6-in.-thick untreated base course made up of 1-in. aggregate.

Staker Parson was now ready to crank up its asphalt-paving operations. The contractor’s flagship Beck Street asphalt plant, located 10 miles off-site, produced the material. A fixed Astec plant capable of producing 600 tons of hot-mix asphalt (HMA) an hour produced the mix. First came the 7-in.-thick ¾-in. HMA base course, which carried a PG 64-34 binder and 15% reclaimed asphalt pavement from a prior job worked on by Staker Parson. The Utah DOT originally specified a PG 70-28 binder, but supply issues in 2008 forced the change. Staker Parson pulled from five different aggregate piles—3?4 in., ½ in. and three different fines—for the mix. The target void content in mineral aggregate was 14%. The material was 300°F coming out of the plant, and by the time it was laid down it had cooled to about 290°F. Crews fed a Roadtec Shuttle Buggy, which transferred the HMA to a Caterpillar AP-1055D asphalt paver equipped with a Caterpillar Fore ’n Aft leveler ski. Staker Parson also used Topcon’s System 5 grade and slope control.

Four rollers were used for compaction—three Caterpillar 634 steel vibratory double-drum rollers and an Ingersoll-Rand SD 100 steel/rubber combination roller. Two of the Cat 634s rolling in tandem served as the breakdown rollers, while the third Cat 634 was the intermediate roller. The breakdown machines made seven passes each before giving way to the intermediate and the finishing roller, the I-R SD 100, which made three passes each. The target density was 93.5% and a Troxler nuclear gauge was used to track compaction performance.

With the base course set, Staker Parson applied a 1-in.-thick open-graded friction course that required a PG 64-34 binder. The rolling pattern was altered a bit. Three Cat 634 steel double-drum rollers operating in static mode formed the compaction train. Two machines were used as breakdown rollers and made four passes each, while the finishing roller made two passes.

Staker Parson tested for gradation and asphalt content for both the HMA base and open-graded friction courses. Four random samples—pulled from behind the asphalt paver screed for the HMA layer and from haul trucks at the asphalt plant for the open-graded friction course—were taken for each lot. At the jobsite, 10 cores were taken after paving and compaction operations to check the density numbers.

Gradation numbers for the HMA base course were as follows: ½-in. sieve was 88% passing; 3?8-in. sieve was 76% passing; No. 4 sieve was 4% passing; No. 8 sieve was 28% passing; No. 16 sieve was 18% passing; No. 50 sieve was 11% passing; and the No. 200 sieve was 6.2% passing. Gradation numbers for the open-graded friction course were as follows: ½-in. sieve was 100% passing; 3?8-in. sieve was 90% passing; No. 4 sieve was 43% passing; No. 8 sieve was 19% passing; and the No. 200 sieve was 3.5% passing. When all was said and done, Staker Parson achieved 50% of the available QC/QA bonuses offered by the Utah DOT.

At the same time Staker Parson was creating the HOV lanes, the existing inside lanes of I-15 were being rubblized. Two different kinds of equipment were used to break up the 40-year-old concrete pavement, which when crushed served as a sub-base for the HMA that ranged between 11 and 16 in. thick. A high-frequency beam from RMI, Kansas City, served as one of the breakers. Antigo Construction used what they called a Badger Breaker, which is a guillotine-type breaker.

Above all else, Staker Parson wanted to achieve maximum smoothness, which required long paving runs. With multiple facets of the job still being executed during the ¾-in. HMA base course paving, finding uninterrupted stretches proved to be difficult, but according to LeFevre crews were able to lay down 4,000 ft at a time. Things opened up during the open-graded friction course application, when Staker Parson was pulling off as long as 4-mile continuous runs.

“It was such an aggressive schedule and the work area was so intense it was a challenge to find some long continuous runs,” said LeFevre. “Just coordinating areas where you can get subcontractors to complete work in stretches so that it could be ready to be paved was tough at times. So what we had to do is manage it so that the subs would complete their activities in sections so we can come in and pave.”

“With the cast-in-place concrete barrier, in some areas we were able to put that right on top of the pavement,” Vaughn Pack, project manager for Staker Parson, told Roads & Bridges. “It took a lot less time to prepare those areas [during the base-course paving], so we would get those areas prepared and would be paving those while they were preparing the areas for the bigger walls that required footing. It was a mixture of both throughout the project so that limited us to just paving sections as they became available to us.”

Whatever the case, the scheduling worked out just right. Utah DOT had a smoothness target of 5 in. per mile, and Staker Parson was awarded 60% of the available smoothness bonus.

When the HOV lanes and existing inside lane were complete, traffic was shifted over to the inside so Staker Parson could transform the outer lanes. Staker Parson also was able to get in the way of noise pollution at the site. The contractor installed precast concrete retaining walls throughout the work zone. LeFevre said 15,085 linear ft of wall was installed, and in one section a berm was constructed with various landscaping features, including trees and some bushes. The walls also came with a mountain-range design similar to the one found on other sections of I-15 in Utah.

“This was just a fantastic project for us, it was a fantastic project for UDOT,” said LeFevre. “It was a very congested piece of road for UDOT and adding the additional lane capacity was very anticipated by the traveling public and had a tremendous positive impact.”

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