Barriers Prove No Obstacle for Drilling

In late-June of 2013, the McCarthy Improvement Company of Davenport, Iowa began the lofty challenge of completely removing and reconstructing the interchange of the busy I-57/70 in Effingham, Ill. The ultimate goal of the ongoing project is to upgrade the interstate from 4-lanes to 6-lanes, resurface the interstate, add highway lighting, and replace two structures as well as rehab two other structures.  

With an estimated completion date of July 2016, this overhaul project for the Illinois Department of Transportation covers a stretch of 2 miles. With a budget of $62 million, McCarthy Improvement is using local workers as part of current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and drive the Illinois’ economy forward.

Challenges persist in any type of interstate work – from different rules and regulations to safety. Whereas a street or road can be blocked off from traffic, it’s necessary for interstates to remain open, construction workers have limited room to work with (especially in certain areas), and despite laws around reducing speed in construction zones—traffic drives faster. Cities and states also have laws for limiting the amount of dust coming from a construction site to keep dust clouds out of a driver’s sight, and unless the zone has a dust collection system, it quickly slows down the production by limiting how much workers can drill.

With limited space, dust, higher volumes of traffic as well as speed, safety is above all else, the single most important aspect for interstate projects. Dowel pin drilling manufacturer Minnich understood the importance of safety and is continuously creating new designs and concepts on their drills that provide additional safety for workers from a dust collection system on their big gang drills to wireless controls that allow a worker to control the drill remotely.    

To keep workers safe, McCarthy Improvement separated traffic from the work zone with a stretch of temporary concrete barriers. Needing to be pinned on the traffic side, the temporary concrete barriers had approximately 36,000-feet of wall to pin. With limited time and hundreds of walls needing to be secured in what would have been a manual job drilling holes, McCarthy reached out to Minnich Manufacturing, of which they trust and have worked with for over 20 years through their dealer Logan Contractor Supply.

“We have a really good standing relationship with McCarthy Improvement and they came to us needing a solution getting a long stretch of temporary concrete barriers nailed down,” said Todd Jurjevic, Sales & Marketing Director at Minnich Manufacturing. “Obviously it would have taken several man hours to drill those down manually, and with as large of a project it is, manual work would have detracted from the job itself and taken away days of work to get them all drilled down. Our engineers are never ones to shy away from a challenge and worked with McCarthy to figure out a machine that is both safe for their workers and efficient. It was a win-win situation.”

Working alongside McCarthy, Minnich Manufacturing engineers came up with a solution by designing and creating a 1-off temporary concrete barrier mounted machine. Its built to ride along the top of the area wall and drill all three holes simultaneously. The self-propelled machine runs off an air compressor, while a tethered controller allows the operator to move the machine to its desired location, make adjustments and operate the drills to nail down the temporary concrete barriers. The process eliminates the need for multiple workers drilling holes by hand, therefore freeing them up to manage other jobs.  

“The temporary concrete barrier mounted machine has substantially helped get the job done and the manpower and safety of the crew greatly increased because of this drill,” said Ryan Birney, product manager at McCarthy Improvement. “Without the drill, workers would have needed to drill thousands and thousands of holes by hand, but now we are able to let the machine do all the work. It’s a pure cost savings as opposed to drilling all the holes manually with standard impact drills.”

The customized drill was not only built to provide efficiency, but has many safety advantages to it as well. By having a tethered controller, the operator is removed from debris and dust; it keeps workers from drilling holes manually and having an accident—especially when operator fatigue sets in—and allows workers to be on the non-traffic side of the barrier wall to keep them away from live traffic.

“We went with Minnich Manufacturing because of the service and support, the price, overall design, ability to customize the machine and meet our product specific needs versus telling us this is what you have,” Birney added.

The Effingham I-57/70 was a large-scale reconstruction project and still has a ways to go before completion, but as technology continues to take off, newly engineered products like the temporary concrete barrier mounted machine gives contractors an added advantage and takes safety to a whole new level. All it took was a little thinking outside of the box and that thought process delivered results.

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