Contractor hearing it from residents

News April 23, 2001
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A five-mile stretch of I-275 near Detroit has received a stamp of approval from groups like the American Concrete Pavement Asso

A five-mile stretch of I-275 near Detroit has received a stamp of approval from groups like the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA). Its been earmarked by local residents, too, which has generated more anger than applause.

The concrete highway is being blamed for an increase in noise pollution in the area, and complaints have been so consistent the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is weighing other options.

"The asphalt industry has thrown out some guarantees about how much noise they are going to reduce and how long (a new pavement) would last," Steve Gregor, concrete division manager at John Carlo Inc. (JCI), Clinton Township, Mich., told ROADS&BRIDGES. "I can't disagree with the noise readings, but it all depends on when they are taking this reading and where they are taking it from."

Officials claim the pavement, which has won an ACPA National Awards Program for Excellence in Concrete Pavement Award in the Divided Highways (Urban) catagory and the National Quality Initiative's Gold "Making a Difference" 2000 Achievement Award in the Breaking the Mold category, has generated noise as high as 83 dBa. Gregor, however, wants to know if there was any buzz about ear ringing before JCI stepped in. The concrete job replaced an asphalt overlay that was "rutted, broken up and had potholes everywhere."

"I have a hard time believing the traffic bouncing up and down on busted up asphalt was quieter than what they have with a concrete roadway," said Gregor. "Unfortunately, their were no noise readings prior to our reconstruction."

At the center of all this racket is a new tining procedure used on I-275. The method--called random spaced skewed tining--has been used in Wisconsin, and studies show the pavement was quieter. But MDOT didn't exactly follow the example set by the Great Lakes neighbor.

"They took this idea of random and instead of copying the spacing and everything Wisconsin used they 're-randomed' it," explained Gregor. "Because we re-randomed it we changed the spacing . . . and I don't know if the pavement is actually louder or if the pitch is a little bit different."

Regardless of the cause, MDOT has been receptive to the noise complaints--and might consider a redo.

Another asphalt overlay is one of the options. Installing a sound wall and diamond grinding also are being discussed.

"My understanding is the department doesn't view (a sound wall) as a very good option because once they do that they're going to set a precedent, and there are other roadways where they have a similar concern with noise," said Gregor. "If they're going to put up sound barriers on every roadway . . . we're going to be making sound walls instead of fixing roads."

JCI used a Gomaco 4000 paver to shape roadway 36 ft wide and 12 in. thick on I-275. Three batch plants and up to 40 trucks fed the massive machine. JCI blended two coarse aggregates--6AAA and 4AA--at a 60/40 ratio to produce a "high quality pavement."

The challenge occured on the southbound side where there was a variable shoulder. The first two lanes of the road were on one grade--a 2% pitch--while the shoulder dropped to 4%.

"Every time we came up to an off ramp that shoulder would turn into the weave lane of the ramp, so while we paved the grade of that shoulder lane we had to change to meet the grade of the ramps," said Gregor. "It was just a matter of a lot of surveying and having some very high qualified people to handle the job."

The project, which started on April 20, 1999, was completed in 155 days--25 days ahead of schedule.

"Overall, this is probably the best job we have ever done," added Gregor.

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