Quality Asphalt Paving: Easy as A + B

Larry Flynn / December 28, 2000

The Sheldon G. Hayes Award is given each year by the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) to the HMA pavement judged the highest quality in the nation. To select the 1998 Hayes award winner, 13 of NAPA’s Quality in Construction Award winners from 1997 were rated again this past summer after they had been open to traffic. The top three projects were selected for a final evaluation (see Oklahoma Contractor Claims Top Asphalt Paving Award, March 1998, p 42). Oklahoma’s I-40 project was judged as a near perfect pavement and was selected to receive the Hayes award.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is proud of the Interstate Highway System it has built and maintains in the Sooner State. One stretch of I-40 about 45 miles west of Oklahoma City had performed better than expected since it was constructed in 1962, but ODOT evaluation of the pavement resulted in the need to completely reconstruct a four-mile section of the roadway. With the knowledge that the interstate system carries the most traffic of any roadway system in the U.S., it was important that the road be reconstructed in a minimum amount of time without ever disrupting the cross-country traffic.

Manuel “Frank” Martinez, design engineer and David Cline, division engineer, decided to remove 9 in. of existing hot-mix asphalt (HMA) and reconstruct the roadway with new full-depth polymer-modified HMA. The design team decided it would specify contractor quality control, as well as use A + B bidding to ensure that the contractors build the project in the shortest amount of time. ODOT estimated it would cost $4,264,912.25, and would allow 275 calendar days to do the construction.

A + B a first in Oklahoma

Bob Lemon, vice president of Haskell Lemon Construction Co. (HLCC), Oklahoma City, picked up the plans for the project March 1, 1996 and began to evaluate the potential for his company to construct the job. Oklahoma had never used A + B bidding before, and this was a new adventure for both the state’s contractors and the agency.

“To my knowledge, it was the very first A + B bid project in the state,” David Cline, division engineer in ODOT’s Division 4, told ROADS & BRIDGES.

Simply put, A + B bidding involves two components: standard pay items (A) and the time it takes the contractor to do the job (B). “We’re finding that our customers and legislators are demanding that we not interrupt the traffic flow for longer than is necessary to complete the project,” Cline said.

While many A + B bid projects are located in urban areas where traffic is heavy and disruptions only make matters worse, the department decided to perform its first project on a rural section of interstate. “Even though it wasn’t an urban project, it was an interstate project and we were going to take down one lane of traffic,” said Cline. “It also was a pretty straightforward project. It was felt that it would be a good one to start on because it wasn’t too complex.”

The stretch of I-40 carries a healthy amount of traffic, with 28,000 vehicles per day traveling the route. “So it has a fair amount of traffic,” Cline said. “It’s a rural highway, so you don’t have the morning and evening peak like you do in an urban environment. There also is a fairly heavy amount of truck traffic on the highway.”

Larry Lemon, HLCC secretary treasurer and son of the company’s founder, agrees with the need to speed along roadbuilding projects like I-40. “It’s a high-profile interstate with high traffic locations where speed is necessary to minimize inconvenience to the public. A contractor ought to get the job, build it fast and be done with it. A + B makes you concentrate on a job and make things move.”

While A + B is intended to lighten the burden on the motoring public, ODOT also tried to facilitate a good working environment for the contractor on the job. “One reason the project was such a success was that we moved the traffic from one side to the other so the contractor didn’t have to deal with traffic during the paving work.”
After the I-40, ODOT began to use the A + B on many projects where time was a major factor. As for the I-40 project, the A + B process turned out well, according to Cline. “The contractor actually ended up using the exact number of bid days to complete the project.

“We’ve used A + B a lot on our urban projects, and gone on to more extensive forms, including A + B + C bidding and lane rental,” Cline said. “We found it to be very effective. It encourages contractors to come up with innovative ways to keep lanes open.”

The C component in A + B + C bidding consists of a maximum time limitation on internal milestones that the contractor bids on to do the work. Incentive/disincentive clauses are built into the contract.

The A segment of the A + B + C process includes bidding on pay items, and B applies to certain phases of work in which the contractor bids on the number of days it will take to complete the job.

“One project has a $1 million incentive; paying up to $10,000 a day for 100 days for early completion,” said Cline.

HLCC wins the bid

Haskell Lemon specializes in asphalt paving throughout central Oklahoma, so it did not take long for Bob Lemon, after looking over the plans, to decide the company could perform the job. To be a successful bidder, Bob realized he must have a good cost estimate, and also a good construction sequence. Working with Joe Thoendel, vice president, and Sut Gregg, project manager, a critical path schedule was prepared. “We felt good about the job,” said Larry Lemon. “We had good people and good high-production equipment.”

After refining the construction operations, it was decided the project could be built in 140 calendar days, which was half the amount of time the state was willing to allow the contractor. According to Larry Lemon, a $1,000 a day value was assigned to the B time component of the bid for each of the calendar days that HLCC said it needed to build the job from start to striping.
“Fate treated us well on the project, between the effort given by the construction team and the breakdowns,” Larry Lemon said. “When you have a $1,000 a day penalty staring you in the face it makes you put some priorities on that project.”

On subsequent A + B jobs, Larry Lemon told ROADS & BRIDGES that the time component is becoming more dominant. “In some urban areas a $10,000 a day value has been assigned to jobs, which gets to be significant,” he said. “One job that we’re working on now is a two-mile urban interstate reconstruction project that is 500 calendar days long. We have $5 million worth of time charges. That may be too much emphasis on the time component.”

On March 21, HLCC was the successful bidder, submitting a winning bid of $3,566,953. “We’ve had an excellent working relationship with Haskell Lemon,” said Cline. “They always build us a good job, and if we want to try something new, they are cooperative.”

Construction commences

On April 29, the contractor started the construction by building detour crossovers at each end of the project, and then hauled and placed safety median barrier the entire length of the project. Once traffic was routed into single lanes on one side of the interstate, construction could begin in earnest.

“The existing pavement was milled, then a layer of open-graded base was placed, followed by a layer of dense-graded asphalt and then a surface course,” Cline said. “The existing shoulders were left in place and overlaid.”

A CMI PR-1000C milling machine started the removal of the existing pavement. A total of 70,000 tons of existing HMA was removed for use on other state projects. Little did state engineers realize in 1962, when they built the highway, that they were making an investment in the future. As it turns out, the value of the reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) in 1996 was more than the original cost to the state when the asphalt was newly paved.

Once the milling operation was a mile down the road, an edge-drain crew began cutting a 1-ft-wide x 1-ft-deep trench using a Vermeer T-555 hydrostatic trencher with lift and installing 6-in. polyethylene under drain supplied by Advanced Drainage Systems, Columbus, Ohio, along the entire length of the project.

“Something new in the state is to design pavements with a drainage layer,” said Larry Lemon. “If you keep the foundation dry then it will be a good foundation for years.”

Upon completion of the drainage, an Amoco separator fabric was placed on the existing base, followed by the placement of a 3-in. open-graded bituminous base. The fabric, together with the base, is designed to act as a drainage layer in the pavement structure.

“The new engineering technique is to install edge drain down the shoulder along the side of the roadway and then place a paving fabric in the base layer,” said Larry Lemon. “Moisture percolates through to the paving fabric and runs off into the edge drain to keep the foundation dry.”

“We put five miles of pipe in one way and then turned around and came back five miles the other way. In all 42,000 lin ft of edge drain was installed.”
The separator fabric acts as a barrier, keeping silt and dirt out of the drainage system.

Ensuring quality

Quality was of the utmost importance on the project. HLCC moved a complete HMA lab to the project so that all quality control testing could take place immediately, and the results could be used to maintain consistent, high-quality high production that met all the ODOT specifications.

Larry Patrick, HLCC’s director of quality control, worked with the ODOT central lab to design four state-of-the-art polymer-modified asphalt mix designs to be used in the roadway.

The polymer used on the project was Elvaloy SBS copolymer manufactured by DuPont. The polymer was blended with the asphalt cement by David Duncan of Royal Trading at Total Petroleum Co.’s Port 33, Okla. facility.

“We’ve had good success with polymer-modified asphalt,” said ODOT’s Cline. “ODOT feels the polymer gives you a more stable mix and stands up better under loads.”
“As a contractor, I’m convinced that polymer-modified material makes for a superior performing pavement,” said Larry Lemon. “It can dramatically extend the life of the pavement.”

While Lemon extolled the virtues of polymer-modified asphalt, he also noted that the material demands more skill on the part of the contractor. “Polymer-modified asphalt makes for a better pavement material, but it also takes better workmanship to place. It’s produced at a higher temperature, is more perishable, you have to haul and place it more quickly and you have to do it right the first time. So, you need to be a notch up in workmanship to do polymer-modified correctly.”

To Cline’s knowledge, the project marked another first for the state in that it used the polymer in the base course mixes as well as in the surface course. “Three percent was added to the surface course and 1% was added to the base material,” Cline said.

Why use a polymer on the project? “I believe the existing base had stripped and was causing some severe rutting,” said Cline. “The agency had a desire to not have that happen in the future.”

Continuing on the quest for quality, each lot of asphalt was immediately sampled for gradation and asphalt content using the latest model testing equipment. All of the asphalt content tests were performed using the NCAT oven incinerator, which gave test results to a closer spec than required.

The roadway densities were monitored using Troxler nuclear density gauges to maintain a proper roller pattern to keep up with the high production.

Under the auspices of project manager Gregg, Haskell Lemon installed an on-site CMI triple drum asphalt plant, which started producing consistent high-specification HMA at a rate of 400 tons per hour (tph). It did not take long to construct the 6 in. of type A asphalt base, and a 1 1/2-in. type B asphalt binder course.

The mix was hauled to a Barber Greene 265 asphalt paver with full automation on the Extend A Mat B screed. Upon completion of the pavement structure, a 3/4-in. open-graded friction surface course was placed as the final lift to make an especially quiet, skid-resistant driving surface.

By placing the roadway in five lifts, the contractor was able to achieve a smoothness that exceeded all expectations. The state’s Ames California profilograph traced the roadway and verified a smoothness of less than 1/2 in. of roughness per mile. This earned Haskell Lemon a smoothness bonus of $56,000. All of the HMA was compacted to the proper density with a roller train of Ingersoll-Rand steel wheel and pneumatic rollers.
The project was completed on Sept. 29, 1996, 139 calendar days into the construction. On day 140, the final inspection was performed, and all members of the construction team agreed a superior project had been built for the motoring public.

A golden 50th

Haskell Lemon Construction Co. (HLCC) was founded by Haskell and Irene Lemon in 1948, and specializes in building roads in the state of Oklahoma.

Presently Peter Wert, chairman of the board, and Larry Lemon, secretary treasurer, are second-generation owners of the company. Company officers are third-generation family members: Kenneth Wert, president, Bob Lemon, vice president and Jay Lemon, vice president.

This year has been an eventful year for the company, Larry Lemon, told ROADS & BRIDGES. Not only is the company celebrating its 50th anniversary, but it has captured the highest award given for quality in asphalt paving, the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s Sheldon G. Hayes Award, and the company’s chairman, Pete Wert, is this year’s president of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“With all the events that have taken place this year, we really haven’t planned a big celebration for the company’s 50th anniversary,” said Larry Lemon. “But we might have a company picnic some time this spring.”

Family has always been the cornerstone of Haskell Lemon Construction Co. (HLCC), according to Larry Lemon. “My parents formed the business in 1948. My dad was one of those guys out of college who starts selling road machinery, tries to start a business, goes broke and tries another and succeeds.

“My mother kept the books and raised the kids. Dad began with a shovel and dump truck and hauled gravel for other contractors. Then he began hauling and placing it himself. Haskell Lemon entered the HMA business in 1955.” The business now employees 200 people.

Haskell and Irene retired from the business in 1984, leaving its future to Larry Lemon and Pete Wert, who is Larry’s brother in-law. The third generation led by Bob and Jay Lemon and Ken Wert also are heavily involved in the operation of the company. Bob is vice president in charge of estimating and outside sales. “He’s the one that gets the work and handles the administrative duties,” Larry Lemon said. Jay is studying in the field to be vice president of construction. “He’s the one in charge of building the jobs,” according to Larry. Ken is a CPA and has a law degree. “He’s strong in administration and operation,” said Larry. “It’s nice that everyone has complementary talents and can work together.”

HLCC has two permanent asphalt plants in Oklahoma City and two portable plants and one concrete plant that are used around the city. “We made a conscious decision to keep our operation close to the city so our guys can be home at night,” said Larry Lemon. “The family unit has always been our highest priority. We’re not going to work 90 hours a week until there is nothing left over. We want to make a good living and have family time.”

Facts about the project

  • Project name: IM-40-4 (347) 104 Canadian County, Okla.
  • 4.045-mile reconstruction of I-40, from U.S. 281 spur west to Methodist Road
  • Job bid on March 21, 1996. Work commenced on April 29 and was totally completed and striped by Sept. 30, 1996. Job was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • The interstate was originally built in the summer of 1962, and had received one overlay and one microsurfacing during its life. (The roadway was now failing and had to be rebuilt.)
  • A total of four contractors bid on the project. Bids were:

    Engineers estimate - $4,264,912.25

    Haskell Lemon Construction Co. - $3,566,952.95

    Broce Construction Co. Inc. - $ 3,575,881.49

    Shears Inc. - $3,655,201.55

  • First job in Oklahoma to use A + B bidding.
  • Job utilized contractor quality control. Agency provided and operated the profilograph.
  • Job used 89,291 tons of HMA. All of the mix was virgin, as ODOT engineers are leery of recycle mix on high-volume roadways.

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