The winter of 2013–14 was a brutal one for residents of Merrillville, Ind., and nearby Crown Point. Roads in these Chicagoland communities south of Lake Michigan took a pounding from extended cold, snow and ice.
“The roads were in real rough shape after that long, hard winter,” said Scott Rediger, engineering administrator for the city of Crown Point. “There were serious cracks and potholes, and some of the curbs and aprons had heaved or otherwise been damaged. As well, residents with high curbs, who already had a steep drop between their curb and the road, found their cars dropping down even further due to the pavement shifting.”
To fix the most damaged residential roads, the local governments of Merrillville and Crown Point hired Griffith, Ind.-based paving contractor Walsh & Kelly Inc. The company removed 1.5 to 2 in. of damaged road surfaces, filled any depressions and repaired and replaced curbs and gutters. The contractor also created new driveway aprons and ensured sidewalks and curb cuts were compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“On a larger scale, we were hired to provide the residents with a significantly improved driving experience,” said Walsh & Kelly Project Manager Keith Gardina. “More importantly, we have to do this with a minimum of disruption to their lives, while keeping the projects on time and within budget.”
From a process point of view, the residential road repairs in Crown Point and Merrillville were “pretty standard,” said Gardina. “First, we bring in a Wirtgen milling machine to remove the top layer of damaged asphalt, up to 2 in. in depth. We don’t rubblize the debris; rather, we truck it back to our asphalt plant for crushing and using in new asphalt pavement mixtures.”
Gardina said that after necessary roadbed patches are made, “our Caterpillar or Vögele pavers come in to do the final surface coat—the asphalt mixture is produced and delivered from our plant in Griffith—and the materials are placed and compacted by the rollers.”
Walsh & Kelly’s mix design for the Merrillville and Crown Point resurfacing was a 9.5-mm asphalt mix using limestone aggregates, manufactured sand, natural sand, slag sand and baghouse dust, all held together with a PG 64−22 asphalt binder. Reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) made up a quarter of the mix, which provided about 22% binder replacement.
As part of the project, damaged concrete curbs were removed using a Gradall telescoping-boom excavator digging a narrow trench around the damaged element, breaking it into manageable pieces and then lifting it out.
“Using this approach takes less time and does a lot less damage to the road, which means less work is needed to repair it,” Gardina said. New curbs were made using locally available concrete and formed with Walsh & Kelly’s Gomaco concrete paving, automatic concrete curbing and sidewalk slipforming machines.
To make life better for residents, Crown Point and Merrillville directed Walsh & Kelly to create drop curbs at the driveway aprons, “so that their cars don’t drop and bounce every time they come and go,” said Rediger. “We also redid the sidewalks to be more consistent: In the past, you could walk down the sidewalk for a while, then cross the road and find no sidewalk at all. We changed this, so that the street will either have a sidewalk for its entire length, or it will not.”
In addition, a great deal of emphasis was put on making the new asphalt road surfaces as smooth and level as possible. “These residents have put up with a lot due to winter damaging their streets, and so have their cars,” said Gardina. “When we’re done, we want them to have roads that are quiet, smooth and a pleasure to drive—with gutters that remove water from sidewalks and streets quickly and curbs that you don’t need a step stool to climb.”
The resident factor
In an ideal world, Walsh & Kelly would be able to bring in its crews and equipment, mill and profile the road, make repairs and then put down a new, smooth surface all in one shot. Of course, this approach would leave residents stranded in their homes with cars unable to leave the driveways.
Given that the work was done in residential areas where predictable access is a must, a total shutdown of the road was out of the question. “This is why we only do one side of the road at a time, with the other side opened up for resident parking,” said Gardina. “In this way, the residents can move in and out freely.” The paving company was careful not to start work until after 7 a.m. on weekdays and to leave the neighborhoods quiet during the weekend. Where necessary, flaggers were used to direct traffic and to keep motorists safe.
However, even this might not be enough to keep some residents happy, especially those who might be caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of road crews on their street.
“Days before we start, our people put door hangers on residents’ doorknobs, letting them know what’s about to take place,” said Rediger. “We are very careful to keep the residents informed. As a precaution, we also had Walsh & Kelly’s people knock on doors before they start, just to remind people what’s going to happen.”
In some cases, Walsh & Kelly took pains to ensure ongoing road access, even when driveway aprons were removed and could not be replaced the same day.
“We had one resident with a physically challenged person in their household who needed some sort of hard surface at all times for their wheelchair,” said Gardina. “So we filled the gaps with crushed stone to provide an accessible surface, which was then removed when the repair work was finished.” He added that this is an exception rather than a rule, given the time and cost of doing such rock fills and removals on a wide-scale basis.
The importance of diplomacy
Minimizing the number of unhappy residents was a big priority for Walsh & Kelly and the local governments they work for. If the work inconveniences residents or does not live up to the expectations of drivers, the people affected can always call up their local council member if they’re unhappy—and some do.
This is why the paving company went to great lengths to do one side of the road at a time—to keep local traffic flowing as well as possible, and to keep residents informed about what’s happening next. It also is why Walsh & Kelly tried to keep its machines and people looking presentable and clean, with an eye toward minimizing the amount of site disturbance and mess left behind.
One key tool in the diplomatic arsenal is to keep reminding people how wonderful the replaced roads will be to drive once they are topped with fresh asphalt—and to prove that point by ensuring that each stretch of just-paved road is smooth.
“The quality of our work goes a long way to keeping the residents happy,” said Gardina. “Once they drive a section that has been redone and see how good it is, they start to look forward to seeing our crews come to their street. Then once it is done, and they’re no longer being jolted when their car drives off the curb, they’re even happier.”AT