Strongly recommended

Jan. 21, 2003

Northstar Asphalt Inc. had a suggestion, but didn't quite have the experience to make it. Nobody in the state of Ohio did.

Northstar Asphalt Inc. had a suggestion, but didn't quite have the experience to make it. Nobody in the state of Ohio did.

When the Ohio Department of Transportation worked out designs for the expansion of a 2.3-mile stretch of I-77, it originally wanted a 131/4-in. asphalt pavement over an asphalt free-draining base and 6-in. aggregate base. Northstar Asphalt, however, believed more resilience was needed to cover a seven-year warranty, and convinced officials to go with the state's first section of perpetual pavement. The North Canton, Ohio-based contractor recommended 171/4 in. of asphalt which included a 4-in. fatigue-resistant layer, a 10-in. rut-resistant base course and a Superpave intermediate and surface course. The design-bid-build job, which started in the spring of 2002, is worth $16 million.

"Warranties are relatively new, and our philosophy always is to make pavements that last," Bryan Shaw, I-77 project manager for Northstar Asphalt, told Roads & Bridges. "The pavement will be evaluated on a yearly basis, and there's a set of criteria which will be used. If cracking and rutting exceeds a certain dimension we're going to be called out to fix it.

"We wanted to make sure we were utilizing the best materials and using the best mix and methods. By applying this perpetual pavement we think we're dealing with a sound concept. We're hoping it exceeds seven years. I'm thinking it will last 10, 11 or even 12 years."

Heading north

Total construction on I-77 will certainly last 10 years. The 2.3-mile segment under the direction of prime contractor The Ruhlin Co., Sharon Center, Ohio, and Northstar Asphalt is part of a massive widening effort, which spans from Akron to Canton. The I-77 corridor was built to hold four lanes of traffic, but the traveling public is now demanding six. A number of asphalt overlays extended the life of the section which, according to Shaw, is 6 in. of asphalt over 9-10 in. of concrete base.

Managing the daily commuters called for immediate and temporary action. To accommodate two lanes of northbound traffic, Northstar Asphalt paved 18 ft of temporary pavement on the inside of the southbound portion and used concrete to extend the outside shoulder 8-10 ft.

After old asphalt was removed, Ruhlin rubblized the sub-base and fixed the subgrade. A three-sided impactor--the Thumper (Model 2000) by IRT Technologies--broke up the sub-base. The new gravel (ODOT 304) foundation contains aggregate no greater than 2 in. According to Ruhlin Project Manager Doug Hartz, 70-100% of sub-base material had to pass through a 1-in. sieve; 50-90% had to pass a 3/4-in. sieve; 30-60% had to pass a No. 4 sieve; 9-33% had to pass a No. 30 sieve; and 0-13% had to pass a No. 200 sieve.

Ruhlin also installed new under drains (perforated pipe trenched with filter fabric wrap) and median drainage (catch basins and points to tie in all under drains). The original pavement did not have median drainage, which Hartz believed led to its destruction. "It just didn't have enough drainage," he said.

Ruhlin handled a small amount of excavation work. Caterpillar 345B L and 330C L excavators handled about 106,000 cu yd, and a CMI TR-2503 trimmer was used to trim both the subgrade and base.

"The biggest thing is meeting the fast-paced schedule," said Hartz on what was a smooth production until work stopped for the winter. "It's been a dawn-to-dusk effort."

Northstar Asphalt has followed Ruhlin with the actual paving portion of the job from dusk-to-dawn. The 171/4-in. perpetual pavement is made up of four layers. The first is a 4-in. fatigue-resistant layer (ODOT 302) which is made up of coarse aggregate (No. 57 crushed gravel/No. 4 limestone), fine aggregate (manufactured/natural sand) and a performance-graded liquid asphalt cement (PG 58-28). Maximum aggregate size is 2 in. and nominal size is 11/2 in. Asphalt cement content is 4.3%. Northstar Asphalt tweaked the gradation and added more asphalt cement to lower the air void content to 3% in the base layer.

The second layer--a 10-in. high-stability and rut-resistant layer (ODOT 302)--was done in two lifts. The mix is almost identical to the fatigue-resistant base with the exception of the air void content (4%) and asphalt cement content (4%).

At the surface are two Superpave layers. The first layer is a 13/4-in., 19-mm Type A Superpave design (ODOT 442). The maximum aggregate size in the 19 mm is 1 in., the nominal aggregate size is 3/4 in. and the asphalt cement (PG 76-22) content is 5.2%. Capping the road is a 11/2-in., 12.5-mm Superpave design (ODOT 442) which contains slag coarse aggregate for skid resistance. The maximum aggregate size in this lift is 1/2 in., the nominal aggregate size is 3/8 in. and the asphalt cement (PG 76-22) content is 6.5%.

A CMI asphalt plant located on site cranked out mixes at 2,000-2,500 tph during work on the northbound lanes.

The big-stone content, however, didn't cooperate at the beginning.

"They're typically pretty hard to handle," said Shaw. "They are prone to segregation and we did have some difficulty up front."

Northstar's segregation solver was a Barber Green MTD 3000 (Circle 926) material transfer vehicle (MTV) with a hopper capacity of 25-30 tons. A Cedarapids MS4 (Circle 927) also worked well on the job. Northstar Asphalt initially used the string line Ruhlin worked off of during the installation of the aggregate base. According to Shaw, using that string line established lift elevation. From there, the combination of the Topcon Sonic Grade Control System (Circle 928) and a ski helped with consistency. The 60-ft ski was positioned in front of the screed. The device signaled back to the tow arm of the paver to make slight adjustments en route to maximum smoothness.

The MTVs fed into a Cedarapids CR561R rubber-tracked paver (Circle 929) with solid screed extensions. "We've gone away from the hydraulically extended screeds and have been using solid extensions," said Shaw. "We felt that would be a more stable screed arrangement."

Forming the roller path were Hypac C778B (Circle 930) and C766C (Circle 931) double-drum vibratory rollers capable of producing 3,000 vpm and a Dynapac CP21 pneumatic tire roller (Circle 932). The density requirement for the 2.3-mile section is 94-97%, and during northbound construction crews were achieving 97% density. Field densities were determined by in-place nuclear gauge testing every 300-500 ft. Core samples also were taken. Asphalt was placed at 290-300°F.

Time to regroup

Most of the work on the northbound section is now complete. Shaw estimated that 90,000 tons of asphalt is currently in place. Another 60,000 tons will be used when southbound construction starts again in March.

"At times this project has been a little intimidating, but we have to look at it from the perspective that it was important to us to build a good pavement that would last," said Shaw. "Hopefully, this is a good exercise to where we want to be in the future. We've worked a lot of bugs out of our laydown and plant operations, and hopefully it will run just as smooth (in March)."

In addition to work on the aggregate base, Ruhlin is expanding four bridges--two overpass spans and two mainline bridges--along the 2.3-mile site. It was decided to remove the existing concrete decks and steel beams, and save the old substructures. The northbound mainline bridge and an overpass south of the project are already upgraded.

"We'll do the southbound bridge this year and the overpass bridge that leads to the Akron-Canton Airport," said Hartz.

Ruhlin wants to finish the southbound mainline bridge before Northstar makes too much progress on the paving end.

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