Quality Piles High

April 18, 2005

Few rocks are chosen as pets these days, but it’s still a good idea to give them adequate housing.

Few rocks are chosen as pets these days, but it’s still a good idea to give them adequate housing.

For FNF Construction, Tempe, Ariz., success on the I-40 paving project started at the obvious point—the asphalt plant. But the method wasn’t quite elementary. FNF handled the aggregate with extreme care, making sure they were uniform in how they were stockpiled and delivered. Pile growth was cut once they reached the height of the loader bucket, and aggregates were not handled on the ground, where dirt and other foreign objects could be accidentally dug and hauled with the road product.

“What we did on this job is we didn’t have a loader on top of the pile,” Jed Billings, president of FNF, told Roads & Bridges magazine. “Sometimes you run into problems when you put the loader up on the pile to stack it higher.”

Problems never made it to the I-40 site, as FNF rolled out 10 miles of the best asphalt to earn the 2004 Sheldon G. Hayes Award for excellence in construction of an asphalt pavement. It marked the second time in three years the honor went to a contractor in the Southwest. K. Barnett & Sons Inc. from Clovis, N.M., claimed the 2002 Hayes Award.

“I don’t think we ever thought we would win it,” said Billings. “Everything came together with this job, and that’s what was interesting. We had great aggregates, great mix qualities and we have always been good on the ride side.”

Greatness has been following FNF around for awhile now. After opening for business 20 years ago, the contractor has been steadfast in producing quality results. Arizona Business magazine has ranked FNF, which also builds bridges, handles grading, milling and custom crushing and is in the trucking business, the No. 1 heavy-highway contractor in the state six years running.

“When we put the group together 20 years ago we brought the right team,” insisted Billings. “When we put the team together our goal was to be the best. We were once working for the best (Sundt Construction). They were the best in the 1970s and we took over in the late ’80s. I don’t think we have relinquished it.”

Sweetening a road

With one of the largest meteor craters in the world sitting nearby, FNF worked with a pavement that looked like it was struck repeatedly with heavy, not-so-foreign objects. The 10-mile, four-lane section, located about 30 miles east of Flagstaff, receives a tremendous amount of truck traffic. The old pavement suffered a rash of cracking and unevenness.

“There was no question it needed attention,” Mike Murphy, project manager for FNF, told Roads & Bridges. “We set out there with the mills and paving spread to do the best that we could. It was just really a sweet job. You get one of those in a lifetime.”

With an average daily traffic count of 21,000, FNF’s primary concern was to prevent any traffic backups (one lane had to remain open in each direction). Being accommodating required milling work to start around midnight and an absence from the roadway by late Friday afternoon. FNF’s goal was to mill up to a mile and a half a day.

“We noticed on this section the traffic is worst on the weekends,” said Murphy. “We concentrated our efforts five days a week and tried to be off the road early afternoon on Friday.”

Arizona roadbuilders also have the service of the highway patrol, which constantly monitored the movements of the work zone. “There were a couple of times when there were backups, but everything worked out well,” said Murphy.

Subcontractor Valentine Surfacing Co., Vancouver, Wash., worked the milling operation. Using a CMI PR 1000 and PR 800-7, crews chewed off 41?2 in. of existing pavement in the travel lanes and 3 in. in the passing lanes. To ensure smoothness right from the start, a 40-ft ski was used on the milling machines.

“Typically the mill is going to go ahead and sense just exactly what the thickness of the pavement is,” said Murphy. “We wanted to take a rolling average of that. If we could make that milled surface very smooth and uniform then it was going to reflect right up into the top paving surface.”

Since Arizona favors recycled rubber over asphalt when it comes to new pavement, some of the milled material from the I-40 job was used on just the shoulders.

When the time came for the fresh mix, FNF used a mobile CMI PTD 400 triple-drum counterflow asphalt plant, located 15 miles from the jobsite, which produced 350-400 tons per hour. Coarse aggregates used for the job came from a basalt quarry in Winslow, Ariz., while the sands and intermediate aggregates originated out of a sand and gravel pit near Snowflake, Ariz. Aggregate size ranged from 3?4 in. to 3?8 in., and material was hauled to the site and dropped in front of a windrow elevator and pickup machine, which worked the mix into a Cat 1055B asphalt paver.

The job consisted of four lifts—a 2-in.-thick, 19-mm Superpave base course in the passing lanes and a 4-in. course in the travel lanes. A 2-in.-thick rubberized asphalt concrete layer was placed on top of the base, and a 3?8-in. rubberized open-graded asphalt friction course served as the cap surface. Lime (1%) served as the admixture for all three mixes. FNF used PG 64-22 asphalt in the Superpave mix, while a PG 58-22 oil was used in the rubber blend for the other two layers.

The Cat 1055B machine, also equipped with a ski, paved as wide as 14 ft. The temperature of the hot-mix asphalt (HMA) at laydown ranged from 270 to 300°F.

Forming the compaction train was a Cat 634D double-drum steel vibratory roller, a Cat PF 300B pneumatic rubber-tire roller and another Cat 634D double-drum.

Testing was done extensively during the project. The HMA was sampled four times a day in the windrow elevator by the state DOT. On the following day, according to a random number scheme, 10 core samples were taken and measured for both density and calculated in-place voids.

“We also had our own people testing at different times of the day to make sure we were getting the same kind of numbers,” said Murphy.

The rubberized asphalt was tested for gradation. According to Murphy, the state DOT has a program where they test on a random-number basis about every 500 tons at the asphalt plant. The state DOT looks at a three-test average. FNF doubled up on the testing.

“The state did it every 500 tons, and every 200 tons after that we did a test,” said Murphy.

FNF’s calculated in-place air voids fell in the 7% range, which was right on target. A Mays Meter was used for smoothness readings, which averaged 18.0 on the I-40 job.

“That was the best at the time. Not only for us, but for the state,” claimed Billings.

Kentucky paving

The state of Kentucky proved to be the land of quality asphalt paving in 2004. Both Mountain Enterprises Inc., Lexington, and Scotty’s Contracting and Stone LLC, Bowling Green, were named Sheldon G. Hayes finalists.

Mountain Enterprises won the award for its work on U.S. Highway 23 in Johnson County. The project involved the construction, milling and overlay of nine miles of both the southbound and northbound lanes of the four-lane highway.

The project included a leveling course, followed by a 4-in.-thick, 37.5-mm Superpave base course and a 11?2-in.-thick, 12.5-mm Superpave surface course.

The finished pavement was smooth and uniform. It earned a bonus from the state for the quality of its ride. Mountain Enterprises also earned a bonus for the quality of the HMA mixtures used in the project.

Scotty’s Contracting earned finalist recognition for work on 2.3 miles of I-65 in Grayson County. The project included breaking and seating the existing concrete pavement in four lanes and placing overlay on them, as well as the addition of two new lanes.

The paving included two 80-mm-thick base courses consisting of 25-mm Superpave mix; an 80-mm-thick binder course consisting of 19-mm Superpave mix; and a 40-mm-thick surface course of 12.5-mm Superpave mix.

Scotty’s produced an extremely smooth pavement that earned the full ride-quality bonus from the state. It was warranted for 10 years against potholes, cracking and other problems.

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