Sinkhole Repair on a Deadline

When Todd Gorby, the foreman at Ajax Paving Industries in southwest Florida, got the call at almost midnight on a Sunday that there was a 20- by 30-foot sinkhole on a heavily traveled road, he knew he only had only a short time to get the road re-opened before the Monday morning rush hour.

"This is a two-lane road, but it holds more traffic than it should. In the morning it is really busy," Gorby says. Complicating the situation is that Ajax Paving's contract with the state only allows Gorby's team a few hours to respond to this type of situation.

Started in Michigan in 1951, Ajax Paving has had a presence in southwest Florida fore more than 25 years. Most of its work is for the state, though the 200-person Florida division also has road repair contracts for Pasco and Pinellas counties and also constructs parking lots.

Gorby says sinkholes are not common in the area, but in this case a pipe had burst and washed away dirt from under the road.

Fortunately, Gorby was working with his four-man crew at another site that night, so when they got the call about the sinkhole they were able to respond quickly. However, the equipment -- specifically a backhoe, plate compactor, and pavement saw -- they needed was being used at another job site.

So one of Gorby's first steps was to secure the equipment necessary to complete the job. He called the RSC Equipment Rental 24/7 Customer Care Center and representatives from the company arrived with the equipment in just over an hour.

"We've offered 24/7 service ever since I've been here, and that's been for the past 10 years," says Ron Watson of the RSC Equipment Rental location in Largo, Florida that responded to Gorby's call. "Our customers are always able to get a live RSC employee on the phone."

RSC Equipment Rental, an Arizona-based company, provides equipment rental services for the construction and other industries in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Once a customer calls the RSC hotline, the drivers and sales representatives on call are contacted through their Nextel phones.

Robby Fountain, an RSC sales representative, and Andy Dorsey, an RSC driver, met within minutes at the RSC store, then loaded and delivered the backhoe and plate compactor that Gorby and his crew used to make the repairs. They also stayed on site for 45 minutes to make sure that Gorby had everything he needed.

Gorby also called on a local barricade company to put safety measures in place. Once that was completed, they were able to begin the repair.

Gorby says that because of the late hour, Ajax had to use the materials they had on hand to repair and get the road open. The Ajax crew used a concrete saw to cut around the sinkhole, creating a sound and smooth vertical edge, then removed the large chunks of asphalt that had fallen into the hole.

Then the Ajax team used the backhoe to fill the hole with five truckloads of pavement millings. They compacted the millings, then paved the surface with approximately 20 tons of asphalt.

"We had the road back open by 6 a.m. thanks to the quick response from RSC. It was excellent service, especially for a Sunday night," Gorby says.

Shortly after the road was re-opened, another sinkhole appeared and the Ajax crew kept the RSC equipment on site to finish the job.