Continuous improvement is what drives Tilcon New York Inc. In an effort to increase productivity, reduce costs and deliver a superior finished product, Tilcon's New Jersey Division is always looking for ways to improve its means and methods for its main business, which is manufacturing asphalt and placing hot mix pavements.
That's why Tilcon decided to use Topcon GPS technology to install the asphalt pavement on its Teterboro Runway 6-24 project. The $10 million rehabilitation project received a $4.7 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Funding was administered by the Federal Aviation Administration through the Airport Improvement Program.
Tilcon New Jersey Division Manager John Biscardi and Project Manager John Carollo were looking for a way to reduce their labor costs and increase their paving crew production on Runway 6-24 at Teterboro Airport in Hackensack, NJ. In the past they had used conventional methods to control line and grade on other Port Authority paving projects. This required extensive survey engineering and labor intensive setting of string line to achieve the desired finished grade elevation required by the specifications.
"By eliminating sting lines we reduced our survey and engineering costs," Biscardi notes. "We also had better access to the material transfer device and we were able to feed the paver more efficiently, allowing for increased production, reducing labor and equipment costs."
"Having paved numerous runways and taxiways the conventional way, this was both scary and exciting," adds Carollo. "We were depending on the Topcon GPS System to make sure we were in the right location and placing the asphalt material at the correct elevation on Runway 6-24."
The results were exceptional and Biscardi and Carollo couldn't be more pleased with the finished product.
GPS gaining traction
Topcon MMGPS technology is not new, but its use in the paving industry is just now starting to gain traction.
GPS alone is not accurate enough vertically for the placement of asphalt cement, but Topcon's unique Lazer Zone technology now provides automatic control of design grade and slope prior to compaction on the first lift of asphalt. MMGPS provides a virtual string line if you will, allowing the contractor to achieve greater production while increasing accuracy. The GPS dish tells the paver where it is on the 3D model of the jobsite, compares it to where it should be, and then adjusts the pavers tow point cylinder to achieve the desired grade and slope. In that respect, MMGPS works just like any other automatic paving sensor – joint matcher, slope, ski or laser.
Tilcon's New Jersey Division wanted to use the technology on the Teterboro runway rehabilitation project. To prove the technology would work, the asphalt producer/contractor first designed a parking lot project at nearby Newark International Airport to "demo" Topcon's MMGPS Paver capabilities.
The first application was challenging, requiring Tilcon to "level up" the parking lot to a specific design subgrade. The first lift of asphalt had passes with mat thickness ranging from zero to five inches in spots.
With the base now leveled up, accuracy improved on the second lift due to a more consistent paving thickness; and the MMGPS method was then approved for use at Teterboro after "as-builts" were completed and compared to plan. The accuracy was there, and eliminating string line was something Tilcon desired.
Skill key to success
Skilled construction industry professionals are very important to successful implementation of GPS in the paving arena, and there was no shortage of quality help at Tilcon.
Although having a GPS "point man" who is a licensed surveyor setting up the GPS equipment is not a must, it certainly is a big advantage.
Having a second "rod man" with a strong paving background to manage the paver once it pulls off the blocks will allow the "point man" to keep up with his other surveying responsibilities during runway closures.