Patching and milling highways and shoulders isn’t that unusual for many paving contractors, but the job Brooks Construction Co. of Fort Wayne, IN, completed last year on a 2 ½-mile stretch of State Route 5 in what is known locally as Amish Country had its challenges.
Yet Brooks Construction not only completed the work and received an incentive bonus, the job was selected as an award winner by the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Founded in 1909, the family-owned company is run by the third generation, John Brooks and Andy Brooks, operating seven HMA plants (including two portable units) throughout northeastern Indiana.
Steve Koble, vice president, says the contractor does site work and concrete work on its paving jobs, but considers itself primarily a paving contractor. “Some years we do 60% commercial and 40% highways and other years it’s just the opposite,” he says, adding that the company runs three pipe and dirt crews, three grade crews, four concrete crews, two patching crews and four paving crews.
Horse and Buggy Issues
Koble says State Route 5 runs through the heart of Shipshewana, IN, and its heavily Amish commercial district. The road varied from 24 to 69 feet wide and shoulders ranged from 2 to 20 feet wide though most shoulders are 8 feet wide -- just enough to enable a horse and buggy to pull over to allow other traffic to pass.
Koble says the company has done work before in the Amish community and it’s the large volume of horse-and-buggy traffic that creates the pavement challenges Brooks faced on this job.
“The shoulders make it safer for the buggies to get around,” he says. “In some areas they travel on the mainline road but this is a big truck route so there are plenty of opportunities for them to travel on the shoulder to avoid truck traffic.”
Whether on the main road or the shoulder, the horse and buggies create a lot of damage to the pavement. “The horseshoes are steel and they really tear up the asphalt, and the narrow buggy wheels generate so much pounds per square inch pressure that they create very deep, very narrow ruts, what we call ‘buggy ruts’ around here,” Koble says. “The horseshoes scrape the pavement, exposing the aggregate and the ruts are so deep they can’t be milled out.”
So Brooks Construction bid the job, which required patching the ruts, milling the surface, and repaving with a mix containing steel furnace slag to strengthen the pavement. They completed the job, including concrete curb and gutter and handicap-accessible cuts, in 20 working days spread out over 10 weeks.
“One of the restrictions on the project was we could only work on Mondays and Thursdays, so that made the job a little more complex,” Koble says. “Luckily we had another job nearby so we kept moving from one to the other, but we couldn’t be as productive as we typically are because we had so many days in between that we couldn’t work.”
He says the reason for the restriction was very busy sales and flea market-type events on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays that the community of Shipshewana didn’t want disrupted. “But we knew that going in so we just factored that into our bid and worked and scheduled around it.”
Unusual Surface Prep
Horse-and-buggy traffic leaves behind a “debris” unlike almost all other paving jobs, so this job started each day with Brooks’ crew having to remove manure from the pavement. Koble says the crew used a Bobcat skid steer outfitted with power broom and hopper attachments to sweep the pavement, then dumped the hoppers onto a flatbed for hauling away.
“You just don’t run into that type of surface cleaning very often,” he says. “And not being able to pave every day means that every day we went out there, we first had to clean the pavement. It wasn’t a difficult part of the job but one that added to how long it took us because instead of cleaning it just once or twice, we cleaned it every day we were out there.”