“It didn’t make sense to put in a 6-inch deep patch,” Niemann says. “So because of the projected overrun of patching, we proposed to do Type 3 patching which would require removal and replacement of only 3 inches.” The Park Service agreed, and patching commenced from June through the end of July. “The additional 2,117 square yards of patching added 20 days to our schedule, which was already behind because of the snow,” adds Niemann.
The challenges grow
With the completion of the patching at July’s end, the micro surfacing had to be finished by the end of August, with chip sealing to follow. Niemann explains that had Intermountain Slurry Seal applied the micro surfacing and chip sealing concurrently, it could have expedited the process, but the practice also would have severely impacted tourists’ access to the park during its busiest month. “We chose to run a more linear schedule to reduce the impact on the park and its visitors,” he says.
Micro surfacing was planned for a total of 43 parking- and camping-related surfaces. Scheduling was critical, and Intermountain Slurry Seal posted pre-notification for each area seven days in advance. “On average, it took three days to clear a parking lot, and we had to get creative on occasion,” Niemann says. For instance, up to 20 percent of the park’s visitors did not speak or read English, which caused some confusion.
In addition, backcountry campers often left their cars parked for days at a time, and several did not see notification about the micro surfacing. “On one occasion, we had to send someone on horseback to locate the campers and get their car keys so we could move their vehicle,” Niemann recalls. “But, we did not have to tow a single car.”
Adding to the difficulties was the fact that because of trees and obstacles, many camping areas, including 87 campground stalls, could not accommodate equipment. In many of the parking areas, the rock curbing is considered to be a National Historic Landmark. To avoid asphalt emulsion splash or damage in these locations, Intermountain Slurry Seal handled almost 25 percent of the total micro surfacing for the project by hand.
Chip sealing began at the end of August, which also ushered in monsoon season for the park. By this time, morning temperatures were too cool for the chip sealing process, and Niemann says on most days work could not begin until 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.
Although the initial bid indicated 430,000 square yards of chip sealing, Intermountain Slurry Seal worked with the CFL and the Park Service to modify that amount to just over 390,000 square yards. “Because of the extra patching, we reduced the quantity of chip sealing to offset the cost. Cape Royal (Route 13) is 19.5 miles long, but because it was due to have reconstruction done in the next five years, we eliminated the chip sealing on the last seven miles of it,” says Niemann.
Like the other processes preceding it, the chip sealing required modification to the original plans, as well as ongoing good communication with the Park Service. For instance, the project plans for the bid indicated that the roads were 22 to 24 feet wide. All of the scenic drives, however, are only 18 to 20 feet wide—consisting of winding, mountainous roads. Intermountain Slurry Seal requested road closures for safety. Although the Park Service preferred not to close roads, management realized it was the only way to keep the public and Intermountain Slurry Seal’s employees safe.
The road closures added tremendous pressure to keep the schedule, which had to be published a month in advance of the work and only allowed three days to complete each closed road. In addition, the narrow roads required a modified method for chip sealing application. All of the dump trucks ran in a group from the site to the stockyard in order to cover the full width of the road in one pass. Niemann explains this is because there was no way to allow the trucks to pass around the chipper without moving it off the road, which would have been impossible because of the mountainous terrain and environmental requirements stipulated by the Park Service.
“The Park Service also required us to pick up excess chips and take them to our designated disposal site, rather than sweep them to the side, which is typical for chip sealing,” Niemann says. This requirement is stipulated on all National Park jobs because the chip material is typically not native to the area. “But in general, the parks like to use these processes because chip sealing and slurry and micro surfacing are very environmentally friendly,” Niemann adds.