Quality Education

April 16, 2003

If you're an asphalt paving family looking to relocate, try the state of New Mexico. It has perhaps one of the best school systems in the country.

K. Barnett & Sons Inc. is a prized product of the state's paving education, and its roots run deep. Fifty-three years ago, K. Barnett Sr. started his own road building business in Clovis, N.M. Brother Bill Barnett, son K. Barnett Jr., grandson Ken and great-grandson Jereme have kept the name on the front door--and probably have a library full of lessons learned.

If you're an asphalt paving family looking to relocate, try the state of New Mexico. It has perhaps one of the best school systems in the country.

K. Barnett & Sons Inc. is a prized product of the state's paving education, and its roots run deep. Fifty-three years ago, K. Barnett Sr. started his own road building business in Clovis, N.M. Brother Bill Barnett, son K. Barnett Jr., grandson Ken and great-grandson Jereme have kept the name on the front door--and probably have a library full of lessons learned.

Teaching has been a priority for those involved in New Mexico paving. Not long ago, officials decided it would be a good idea to start a Technician Training and Certification Program in Albuquerque. There, members of the private and public sectors share the same book, the same instructor and the same classroom--all in an effort to strengthen their knowledge on the subject of asphalt.

In January, K. Barnett & Sons and the New Mexico State Highway Department were named to an elite honor roll. The National Asphalt Pavement Association recognized work done on a five-mile stretch of I-25 with the 2002 Sheldon G. Hayes Award.

"I didn't realize the impact of (the award) when we were first notified," Ken Barnett, president of K. Barnett & Sons Inc., told Roads & Bridges. "Then we started receiving comments from the competition about how prestigious of an award it is. It really made us feel like we received an honor."

The Hayes Award winner is determined through a two-year process. Highway pavement projects using more than 50,000 tons of hot-mix asphalt are eligible for consideration. Initially, they must win a Quality in Construction 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 honor it may be considered for the Hayes. The top ranked projects from each year are tested for smoothness, then visually inspected by an independent pavement consultant.

K. Barnett & Sons went beyond the required rhetoric, using constructive innovation in a state that has really kept future road development in check.

"This is not a high activity area as far as construction goes," remarked Barnett.

A tighter feel

Rehabilitation work has helped the odds of roads lasting longer in New Mexico, and the State Highway Department believes it has quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) specifications that are ahead of the times.

There was a period when officials were content in following the Federal Highway Administration specs, which were very general in nature. But about 10 years ago Frank Guzman and his co-workers in District 1 began adjusting the specification.

"We took the FHWA model and put it out there in the field," the District 1 technical support engineer told Roads & Bridges. "We only had a few pay characteristics as it related to hot mix."

According to Guzman, percentages of asphalt, lime and density formed the composite pay factor (incentives/disincentives) for every job. In the years following the pilot project, more pay characteristics have been added and the specification band width has been tightened. Contractors are now offered an upper spec limit and a lower spec limit which they can use to produce the mix.

"You essentially give him a tighter band where he can achieve 100% payment to put out a good product," said Guzman. "We have found if we give realistic target values the end result is a quality mix."

The process also has produced confidence. The highway department used to handle a lot of the hot-mix designs, but these days it's up to the contractor.

"We thought we really needed to move that level of effort over to the contracting side to allow the contractor process control," said Guzman.

The middle of New Mexico

I-25 has been around a long time. The District 1 portion of the route covers about 174 miles of rural habitat. Work has been touch-and-go on the four laner. The highway department opted to rehab in sections, with the golden 5-mile portion executed by K. Barnett & Sons--located in central New Mexico north of Las Cruces--serving as one of the closing jobs. Rutting and severe alligator cracking were starting to eat away at the asphalt and, according to Barnett, hydroplaning was an ongoing problem. There also were some deficiencies in the shoulders.

"This stretch had significant deterioration on the surface," he said. "This was certainly one of the worst sections remaining (on I-25)."

"There was some cracking, which is the typical type of distress that you see out in this part of the state. Rideability was rough and we saw it as a need to rehab it," added Guzman.

The paving portion of this job was originally part of a bigger job which consisted of some bridge reconstruction. After some discussion, the highway department decided it did not want the complicated span work to slow the hot-mix process, so broke it down to two phases.

"We switched the funding so we were able to do the Hayes Award portion first," said Guzman.

I-25, however, had its share of sticking points. The fact it was in rural country could have been a costly inconvenience. New Mexico prefers to crush its own aggregate, and luckily K. Barnett & Sons owned a pit about five miles from the jobsite.

With pit location set, K. Barnett & Sons moved in with its CMI PR 8007-12 milling machine (Circle 952) and chewed 50 mm of pavement. Here's where the crew turned clever. A 40-ft ski was attached to the milling machine to enhance the grade average system.

"This enhanced the smoothness," said Barnett. "With the mill ordinarily you just take spot readings and match whatever it's running adjacent to. When you run on the ski it averages the bump out so you don't get the changes in the grade." Skis also were used during the in-situ cold recycling and asphalt paving stages.

The milled material was then used to serve as a sub-base for the troubled shoulders. A Caterpillar 14G (Circle 953) motor grader cut the shoulder subgrade prior to the material coming in. Once the aggregate was in place, a Caterpillar 140H (Circle 954) motor grader provided a smooth finish, and the shoulders were topped with an 80- mm Superpave surfacing taper. Two rollers were used for compaction--a Dynapac CP27 pneumatic roller (Circle 955) and a Dynapac CA251D steel-wheeled roller (Circle 956).

While shoulder work was being done, Brown & Brown, Salina, Kan., executed 102 mm of in-situ cold recycling. This process, covering 15,000 sq yd a day, allowed the contractor to reuse material for the reconstruction of the existing road surface. After adding 1% emulsion and hydrate lime (pulverized limestone) to the blend, a Cedarapids MS-1 windrow elevator (Circle 957) picked up the material and transferred it to a Blaw-Knox PF 180 (Circle 958) asphalt paver, which laid the asphalt down at 320°F. Two Dynapac CP27 pneumatic rollers followed the Blaw-Knox, and the final piece in the equipment train was a Dynapac CC421 vibratory roller (Circle 959) operating at 2,800 vpm.

The pit came into play as K. Barnett & Sons worked to meet specifications for two 11/2-in. lifts of Superpave (SP-4). Four types of aggregate were produced--coarse aggregates 3/4 to 1 in. in size; intermediate aggregates 1/2 to 3/4 in. in size; fine aggregates 3/8 to 1/2 in. in size; and No. 2 fine aggregates less than 3/8 in. in size. Added to the mix was PG 70-16 asphalt cement (5.7%), serving as the binder and hydrate lime (1.5%), which resulted in 4% air voids. The volume of mineral aggregate was 14.8%.

A Cedarapids 8828 parallel-flow asphalt drum plant (Circle 960), located in the pit, did the mixing and filled Mack trucks equipped with CMI belly dumps. Asphalt was produced at 375 tons an hour.

Waiting at the jobsite was a Caterpillar AP 1050 (Circle 961) asphalt paver with an attached Cedarapids MS-1 windrow elevator. Handling the compaction was two Dynapac CC421 vibratory rollers, a Dynapac CC501 (Circle 962) vibratory roller and a Dynapac CP27 pneumatic roller. K. Barnett & Sons again chose to compact at 2,800 vpm.

Crews capped the rehabbed road with a 5/8-in. open-graded friction course. This mix was made up of 100% aggregate past 12 mm and 7.2% polymerized asphalt cement 20 (PAC-20). The same paver and windrow elevator used for the Superpave portion of the job were put to work here, and two Dynapac CC421s operating in the static mode followed.

For testing, K. Barnett & Sons brought in a portable lab with three certified technicians. They used gyratory compactors to test for density, which was 96%. During hot-mix production theoretical densities were taken and core samples pulled every 1,200 tons. A profilograph checked for smoothness. The New Mexico State Highway Department awarded a maximum bonus of 5%, and this road received 4.4%.

Working in a group

K. Barnett & Sons and the New Mexico State Highway Department formed a strong axle at the start of the I-25 job. The two sides conducted daily meetings, discussing project coordination, traffic safety and any construction problems. More formal meetings were held every month.

"From the onset District 1 personnel were really oriented towards partnering and working with us, and there was always an exceptional relationship for addressing issues on the project and coming up with solutions," said Barnett. "We have worked with these people before, so we had a good rapport established. They have always been pro-problem solving."

And with one Hayes Award now in the bag, Guzman believes there will be a few more award-winning gatherings at future NAPA conventions.

"I was just talking with our maintenance engineer and he asked if this was the first of many Hayes Awards. Without sounding overly confident I certainly feel with our hot-mix program, especially our QA/QC specs, that we would be recipients of more Sheldon G. Hayes Awards. This is just typical construction for us," he added.

Hayes finalists

The National Asphalt Pavement Association also named three finalists in the 2002 NAPA Sheldon G. Hayes Award competition: Venture Corp., Great Bend, Kan., claimed one while Rieth-Riley Construction Co. Inc., Manton and Prudenville, Mich., earned a pair.

Venture received recognition for a two-year project which dealt with the reconstruction of 16 miles on Highway 156 in Barton County, Kan. A bridge span midway in the project required Venture to use two plants and two crew teams during the first year.

Because of the complex nature of the job, the Kansas Department of Transportation held weekly partnering meetings with Venture and the 15 other contractors working on the job.

Venture used two 30-ft traveling string-line wheels on the project to achieve maximum smoothness and create the best ride for the traveling public. The contractor's employees also tried to run the HMA laydown machine continuously except when they were tying into the bridge.

"We had no deviations or corrective actions anywhere," said Kip Spray, owner of Venture. "We achieved 93% of the maximum smoothness award for the job.

"We have a lot of good jobs out there. This just happened to be one of those that turned out real well."

Rieth-Riley's Prudenville, Mich., branch was a Hayes finalist for a proj-ect that involved the reconstruction of a 4.47-mile stretch of I-75 near Roscommon, Mich., a route heavily traveled by people heading to tourist destinations in the northern part of the state. Under the terms of the contract, Rieth-Riley had to keep certain lanes open to traffic three days a week or face penalties for lane closures.

The company did everything it could to move the job as quickly as possible, including running several operations concurrently. Rieth-Riley completed the project ahead of schedule while achieving a ride quality index of 13.3. The company received 91.3% of the total possible for quality assurance/density/ride bonuses.

"I've been doing this work for 28 years and I've never had a job that clicked like this," said Tim O'Rourke, area manager for Rieth-Riley. "Everything had to go right, and it did. We had four months of winter before this project started to prepare ourselves, and we built the job in our heads a dozen times during that time. When it came to actually making it happen we were well prepared."

Over in Cadillac, Mich., Rieth-Riley's Manton outfit achieved success on 5 miles of a limited-access bypass.

Crews paved the 38-ft-wide roadway in three passes, including echelon paving to eliminate joints between the mainline and outside shoulders. For the base coat, the company laid 2.5 in. of HMA followed by a leveling course of 1.75 in. and a 1.25-in. surface course.

During the construction process, the company performed several tests to evaluate pavement densities and overall performance. They used a material transfer device on the surface paving, which helped them achieve a ride quality index of 14.34.

Despite last-minute changes, the project was completed ahead of schedule. The community used portions of the road for recreational activities before it officially opened and celebrated its opening with a walk that raised money for a local greenway (pedestrian/bicycling path).

"We are proud of this distinction because it recognizes what we have accomplished as an employee-owned company," said Lonnie Schaub, area manager of Rieth-Riley's Manton and Traverse City divisions.

About The Author: Bill Wilson is editor of Roads & Bridges.