Experiencing good fortunes

June 11, 2001
Give these guys too many coffee breaks and they could be wired for a trip 1,000 miles away

Give these guys too many coffee breaks and they could be wired for a trip 1,000 miles away.

Give these guys too many coffee breaks and they could be wired for a trip 1,000 miles away

Give these guys too many coffee breaks and they could be wired for a trip 1,000 miles away. Caffeine wouldn’t be to blame, either.

One of Thompson-McCully’s biggest challenges on a 9.7-mile, four-lane section of U.S. 131, an $8.6 million project located 15 miles north of Grand Rapids, Mich., was to keep the rubblization machines in constant contact with the pavement. If not, another job was just a phone call and a few states away. The pager was clipped and ready to beep.

Because rubblization companies are scarce, the demand for intrastate work is over the top.

"These guys are all over the country with these machines, so the key was to once we got them here to keep them," Kris Hulsebos, estimator for Nashville Construction Co., Nashville, Mich., told ROADS & BRIDGES. Hulsebos’ company was one of the main subcontractors for the project.

Thompson-McCully didn’t have a problem keeping them occupied. In fact, a lot of work went into receiving the 2000 Sheldon G. Hayes Award, the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s top honor in the asphalt paving industry.

"It’s really exciting for the people involved in building the job," Roger Van Putten, division manager for Thompson-McCully’s Grand Rapids office, told ROADS & BRIDGES. "I had a feeling we would have a good chance because it was such a good looking job and the road was so smooth. I got a lot of comments even from our competition. They all said it was a good-looking job."

Thompson-McCully has been the envy of corporate America for the past couple of years. Back in 1999, owner Bob Thompson sold the outfit to Old Castle Materials for a hefty sum of $420 million. He proceeded to give a portion back to the employees.

"It’s always been our mission to put a superior product out there, and it’s nice to be recognized for it," Dennis Rickard, president of Thompson-McCully, told ROADS & BRIDGES.

"We make people accountable here, that’s our philosophy. We give them the information, let them make decisions and support them making the right decisions. We let them set the standards for good work, and that’s what Roger Van Putten did. He did good work and was recognized for it. He has good people working for him. You always want to win (the Hayes Award) to prove you’re doing it right."

A smooth wind

Thompson-McCully fit everything into their schedule. The rubblizing crew made two trips to the U.S. 131 site, and work was so consistent they pulled another machine off a different Michigan job to share the load.

Resonant Machines, Tulsa, Okla., brought in two resident breakers to tear up the existing concrete expressway, which was 24-ft wide in each direction and 10 in. deep. The rubblization covered 260,000 sq yd.

A Caterpillar 140G motor grader shaped the existing material behind the crushing, and a Dynapac steel drum vibratory roller and a Hyster rubber tire roller handled the compaction.

"The main key was scheduling," said Hulsebos. "We worked with the people ahead of time."

With the old concrete serving as a sub-base, Van Putten’s team concentrated on the wind row paving portion of the job. An Accupave wind row paver, pushed by a Komatsu WA320 wheel loader, blended the asphalt for a Cedarapids MS-2 pick-up machine. Material was then transferred to a Blaw-Knox 5510 paver equipped with a Carlson Easy Screed III. The widest paving width was 17 ft.

The new road consisted of three layers—a 2 1/4-in. base course, a 2 1/4-in. leveling course and a 1 1/2-in. surface course. A Superpave 3E10 mix was applied for the base and leveling course, while a Superpave 4E10 mix covered the surface.

A polymer modified liquid—grade PG 64/-28—was included in the surface course blend. The top layer also consisted of 40% stone and 60% sand. The stone size ranged from 1/2 in. to 75 microns. The bottom two layers had a PG 58/28 polymer modifier and were made up of 60% stone and 40% sand. They also were armed with an anti-stripping agent to prevent ice from separating the asphalt from the stones. The stones consisted of 100% crushed cubicle material, and the sand was of the crush manufactured variety.

A CMI counterflow asphalt plant, located 15 miles from the site, worked at a rate of 600 tons per hour. A total of 15 rear-discharge, eight-axle trucks did the hauling.

The mix was laid down at 310û F. Four rollers handled the compacting. Trailing the Blaw-Knox 5510 was an Ingram AE 315 three-wheel roller, then came a Caterpillar CB 534 double-drum vibratory machine operating at 2,600 vpm and two Hyster C350D static rollers. The goal was to reach 92% maximum achievable density and have at least 6% air voids in the mix. The average density for the project was 93.5%, and the crew received 70% of the allowable incentives.

A lightweight inertial surface analyzer tested the smoothness of the road, which recorded a 19 ride quality index.

"That’s very, very smooth," said Van Putten.

"Rideability is always a challenge for us because if we do a great job on rideability all the other things fall into place," said Rickard. "That’s the challenge to our people all the time."

Nashville Construction participated in guard rail, pipe and dirt, sand and gravel and restoration work. It also was responsible for the crushing and shaping of 60,000 sq yd of asphalt ramps. J.L. Milling, Schoolcraft, Mich., came in with a pulverizer for the job, which created pavement 6-8 in. in depth.

Nashville ingenuity kicked in during the restoration portion. The job called for a 6-ft-wide mulch blanket close to the expressway. The blanket is manufactured in 12-ft rolls. Nashville proceeded to cut the blanket in half and installed an arm on the side of the front bucket of a Caterpillar 416B backhoe. The blanket, now 6 ft wide, was then clamped on the arm and rolled out.

The other work consisted of: installing 1,000 ft and adjusting 4,500 ft of guard rail; moving 5,000 cu yd of dirt; applying 4,000-5,000 cu yd of gravel for base under bridges; applying 24,000 tons of 23A gravel for the shoulders; installing 200,000 ft of pipe; and grading and compacting existing sand.

Avoiding a tourist trap

A month into the project, Thompson-McCully was showing skill in keeping those on the job moving. But as Memorial Day approached, the task shifted to making those on vacation happy.

The Michigan DOT requires all major tourist roads to be open weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day for tourism.

"The biggest headache was we had to do smaller sections of the roadway at one time," said Van Putten. "At the beginning of each week we had to rubblize a section of the road, and that’s really time consuming. Fortunately, we had really, really nice weather."

The construction sections were approximately two lane miles long, according to Van Putten, and despite the weekend stoppages all work was complete days ahead of schedule.

"We just worked long days . . . 12- to 14-hour shifts," said Van Putten.

"We’ve been trying (to win the Hayes Award) for a long time. We had a Quality in Construction award for a different job in Holland, Mich., two years ago. I thought we did a little better job on that one, but it was a different type of job."

Rickard thinks everything clicked at the U.S. 131 site.

"When they meet goals on ride, density, win an award and finish ahead of schedule what more could you ask out of your people?"

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