It was all about asphalt at the recent National Pavement Expo (NPE) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A well attended show floor along with product walk-arounds and outside demos kept attendees' interest. Some of the highlights of this year's show were from Bomag with its new BM 600/15 cold planner milling machine that skinned an inch and a half from a 20- by 130-foot area. The company outlined its features of cutting depth and width.
Schwartz Industries unveiled its M6 Avalanche mechanical sweeper that wiped clean a huge debris sweep of the windrow created by a Buffalo Turbine. Crafco, SealMaster, Rayner, Cimline and KM International were also among the companies at NPE demonstrating products to the pavement and asphalt contracting industries.
Some interesting statistics relating to how much of our gas taxes and user fees go to cover the cost of roads and other transportation infrastructure is being reported by the Tax Foundation. In a recent research report, the group claims that as of 2011 slightly more than 50 percent of all state and local expenses went to roads. And when all transportation modes are factored into the mix the ratios do not improve.
It's an eye opening document for those who work in the road construction industry, and can be accessed at taxfoundation.org.
In a related development, though out of office, former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is far from out of the transportation funding discussion as witnessed by a recent interview on Fox News.
Training firm ESI International reports growing interest in the project management field as business leaders seek to increase efficiencies with expanded responsibility. larger projects require greater depth of knowledge of all skills needed to direct teams, resulting in better competitive advantage. And those with greater overall knowledge of the entire process are certain to prosper.
Ford Motor seeks to bite off a bigger piece of the pickup truck pie with a complete redesign of its F-150 lineup. A new body construction of aluminum instead of steel is seen by engineers as part of the way forward as the challenge seeks to find a stronger yet lighter platform, reducing total weight by 700 pounds. Yet with better fuel efficiency, the F-150 lineup has a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that includes the auto stop-start technology, 360-degree rear camera and other Ford features designed to keep the pickup as the best selling in America.
Contractors using BIM - Building Information Modeling - report that the system improves construction productivity efficiency and quality. McGraw Hill studied firms in nine of the world's top 10 construction markets where BIM is used. The return on investment BIM is demonstrating is expected to transform global construction practices. Going forward it's predicted that contractors will use BIM 50 percent more than at present to improve their bottom lines.
As the saying goes, "even the best laid plans..."; and so goes the saga of Big Bertha. Employed to dig a two-mile-long tunnel under Seattle in a massive infrastructure project, the world's largest boring machine came to a halt in early December as it struck an unknown underground object. Engineers were dumbfounded as crews worked to discover what had stopped the boring 60 feet underground. After nearly a month of exploring the culprit responsible has been identified as an 8-inch-diameter well casing buried some 10 years ago during a study of ground water movement for the present construction project - and completely forgotten about. Inspectors are now going into the bore site in shifts to examine for potential damage and figure out when to proceed.
And we close on this note: encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.