Grinding It Out: A Project Feature on Route 67

Jessica Claas | Tuesday April 6, 2021

Grinding It Out: A Project Feature on Route 67

Jessica Claas | Tuesday April 6, 2021

We’ve all been there. You’re cruising down the highway and suddenly the steering wheel is vibrating, your teeth are chattering, and your coffee is threatening to bounce out of the cup in your console. Just as you’re thinking maybe it’s time to replace the shocks on your vehicle, you realize it’s just the pavement you’re driving on, and it needs a little (or a lot) of TLC.

One such highway was Route 67 in Jackson and White counties of Arkansas. Other than being an annoyance to the traveling public, the deteriorating pavement was becoming unsafe. In anticipation of Route 67 becoming a future interstate, the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) slated the nearly 28 miles of 4-lane highway for complete concrete pavement rehabilitation.

After winning the competitive bid for the project, our teams mobilized in mid-May 2019, and they’ve been grinding it out ever since, literally – by performing a technique called diamond grinding. No, this isn’t the latest dance trend on Tik Tok. Although, it does produce some pretty smooth moves. Diamond grinding rehabs concrete pavement by correcting irregularities and roughness, thus, significantly improving the riding smoothness of the pavement. Our diamond grinding equipment has 240 diamond saw blades that are mounted on a shaft, creating a 4-foot long cutting head that is in the center of the machine. The blades rotate and effectively shaves or planes off imperfections and bumps by creating grooves in the pavement. The grooves create an effect that is reminiscent of corduroy – and if you’ve ever owned a pair of corduroy pants, you know how soft it is. Hey, they’re making a comeback! The grooves also serve another very important purpose – an increase in safety. They provide surface friction and channels for water drainage, reducing the risk of hydroplaning in wet weather conditions.

Our diamond grinding operation doesn’t just consist of the ginder. It’s a convoy that includes a vacuum truck to pick up the slurry residue that is created by the grinding, and a water truck that cools the cutting head. This operation allowed for the work to occur while keeping the highway open to traffic by only needing one drop lane. This was imperative to keeping the project on schedule.

In addition to diamond grinding, the scope of work included replacing faulted concrete panels, re-sealing pavement joints, repair and overlay of 18 bridge decks, replacing the asphalt shoulders throughout the entire project, and finishing with adding pavement striping and rumble strips. Each of these items had to be phased and completed before the next phase could begin. Scheduling was our biggest hurdle but it was also one or our biggest successes on the project. Strategically managing subcontractors that were working concurrently with ESS crews in 1-lane workzone took some very careful planning. The result produced an accelerated completion date and good working relationships with subcontractors and ARDOT in this geographic market.

We know you like big stats, exceptional quality, and high production – and the Route 67 project had it all. Let us throw a few numbers at you.

  • 750,000 SY of diamond grinding
  • 700,000 LF of joints sealed
  • 15,000 SY of concrete replaced
  • Ride smoothness increased by 64%
  • Project estimated to complete 360+ days ahead of schedule

Did you catch that last one? The Route 67 project will finish a whole year ahead of the required completion date! A huge congratulations to the 8 crews that worked year-round to make that happen. Proud of this project and his team’s efforts, Project Superintendent Hal Brenton wanted to give them a shout out. “Kudos to all the men and women who worked hard every day to make this project a huge success. Keeping a project on schedule is always a challenge, but completing one a full year ahead of schedule requires the collaboration and teamwork of everyone involved. Seeing it happen on this project is especially gratifying as it was one of the first projects these crews completed under the ESS brand.”

The quality of work our team performed on this project is getting noticed. “I was impressed with how much some areas of the highway were improved by the diamond grinding and the quality of concrete replacement at Glaise Creek” said Resident Engineer for ARDOT, Casey Chastain, “ARDOT has received very positive feedback from the traveling public on the ride improvement and the new look on the right away from the special clearing. We’re very happy with the results produced here.”

Giving ARDOT a year back and achieving the full bonus on the project, all while keeping the budget significantly in the green is an incredible achievement – and these guys aren’t done yet. Work has already begun on the next 25 miles of Route 67, just 5 miles south of this project. We’re doing incredible things down south – and ARDOT is noticing. And that coffee is now staying in the mug.

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