Paving Crew Rolls with the Pressure

The chance to test a new roller couldn’t have come at a better time, as Milestone Contractors meets a tight completion deadline on the Metropolis shopping center project.

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If you build it, they will come. That’s what the developers of the new 850,000-square-foot Metropolis shopping center in Plainfield, IN, are banking on. As one of a growing number of trendy lifestyle shopping centers, the open-air mall outside Indianapolis was built in a little more than 10 months and officially opened October 29, 2005.

At a price tag of $127 million, Metropolis was designed to boast an atmosphere with enough excitement to lure the likes of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, from their comparatively dull city of the same name to a stimulating locale for shopping, dining and entertainment. And if that didn’t occur, at least they would entice shoppers from Plainfield and parts of Western Indiana who previously had to travel into Indianapolis to shop at a large center.

The birth of Metropolis required the involvement of multiple construction contractors, including Milestone Contractors, L.P. The Indiana-based company, which employs more than 1,200 seasonal construction personnel, specializes in asphalt paving, highway and bridge construction, utility work and site development. Milestone was hired to build Metropolis’ parking lots and interior paths and roadways, as well as repair an existing road nearby. Milestone began work at the site in June 2005.

A blanket assessment of Milestone’s job would show that they laid 48,000 tons of stone and 37,585 tons of asphalt on the site, in addition to curb construction. On nearby Perry Road, in front of the mall, another 8,478 tons of asphalt was laid. But numbers alone don’t tell the tale. The outdoor mall concept created some fairly unique paving layouts.

“The whole project was rather odd-shaped,” says Chad Warren, Milestone’s asphalt job superintendent at Metropolis. The center’s set-up required not only the standard parking lots and roads surrounding the mall, but several interior roadways weaving through the various clusters of retail stores.

An east-west crossroad intersects with a north-south crossroad at the heart of Metropolis. After trench drains were installed in the binder coarse along the crossroads, Milestone went back in to complete the surface. “A lot of hand work was involved,” says Warren. “It wasn’t exactly a basic paving job.”

Crunch time

Milestone began work on Perry Road in September 2005, while still in the process of completing work around the mall. While the road construction proved to be far less logistically challenging than the asphalt work around the mall itself, there was still the concern of the project’s timeline, with just a few weeks left to complete the road.

The project involved milling the existing road before having a 1 1/2-inch asphalt overlay placed. Milestone operates a dozen hot mix asphalt plants throughout the state of Indiana. The city of Plainfield’s specifications for the road dictated that Milestone’s overlay use asphalt mix that included percentages of blast furnace slag and steel slag. These slag aggregates have a cubical shape and rough texture that makes them ideal for making roads skid-resistant.

“As we have various compaction situations arise, we’ll look at different rollers that will meet the needs of the material we’re laying,” says Lynn Shireman, Milestone’s general superintendent. A 20-year veteran at Milestone, Shireman routinely relies on asphalt industry experts to find the best industry practices.

One of Shireman’s contacts is Chuck Deahl, national account manager for Bomag Americas. “Chuck happened to be in the area and told us about Bomag’s new roller,” says Shireman. The new roller was the BW278 tandem vibratory roller, which Deahl promptly offered to Milestone on a demonstration. The timing for Milestone to come across a new piece of equipment to help the cause couldn’t have been better.

With site developer Premier Properties targeting October 29, 2005, for the grand opening of Metropolis, there were tight deadlines involved. Multiple crews from Milestone, including one crew from outside the Indianapolis area, were on site to see the project through to completion.

With just days remaining before the doors were to open at Metropolis, the BW278 was brought out to assist with the completion of Perry Road. On the day of Deahl’s arrival, a delay in getting asphalt to the site prompted the crew, led by Milestone foreman Milton Kinder, to work in the dark until the mainline paving was completed at nine o’clock. The BW278 was used behind the paver as a breakdown roller and was also used as a finish roller.

Warren cited the BW278’s drum width of 78 inches as a huge benefit. “I was really impressed with the wide drum,” says Warren. “We could make about two passes and compact the material. The roller really achieved what we were looking for.”

Variable frequency is another key feature on the BW278, which offers vibration frequencies ranging from a minimum of 2,000 to a maximum of 3,800 vibrations per minute (vpm). Milestone ran the roller primarily in low amplitude at 3,800 vpm and then reduced the frequency while working more slowly on the turnouts and approaches.

The BW278 can reach a working speed of 4.3 miles per hour while maintaining a minimum of 10 impacts per foot. The BW278 is subsequently able to cover more area in less time without sacrificing compaction performance.

All of these features — drum width, frequency and working speed — meant less time on the project and more efficient production for Milestone.

“Proper compaction, density tests and quality are all obviously important,” says Deahl. “But to me what also matters is if an operator gets off the roller and tells me, ‘I like your roller.’ Then I know we’re doing something right.”

According to Shireman and Warren, Milestone’s roller operators were pleased with the performance of the BW278.

“We were getting high density numbers, and there were zero problems with cutting or stretching the mat,” says Warren. Additionally, the operators pointed out the good visibility offered by the BW278, which came in especially handy in the dark.

Maneuverability is another important aspect of the BW278. “The roller was very easy to control,” says Warren . While a roller with a 78-inch drum is usually considered more of a mainline machine, the BW278 was able to maneuver in tight areas. That versatility aided the Milestone crews as they pushed toward their deadline.

The productivity of the BW278 was impressive enough that Milestone decided to buy the BW278, and the company recently purchased three additional Bomag rollers for future projects.

On October 26, 2005, just three days before the grand opening of Metropolis, Milestone’s crews completed work on the site. Deahl, being familiar with deadlines, was genuinely impressed with the work of the Milestone crews.

“They had hard-working paving crews that really came through up against the deadline,” says Deahl. “For them to lay 1 1/2 inches of surface mix and get the smoothness they did was just excellent. I liken good paving crews to good families. And good families do two things: They communicate, and they watch out for each other. That’s exactly what this crew did.”

The Metropolis lifestyle center is now open for business with a fraction of the retailers it eventually hopes to attract. The fact that the mall opened on schedule is a testament to paving crews that came in and got the job done fast … some might say faster than a speeding bullet.

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