A stretch of highway through rural Colorado had become so bad that the 1,500 residents of Springfield have readily put up with construction detours and disruptions for almost a year. This 18.4-kilometer (11.5 mi.) portion of US 287, which was in horrible shape as a result of truck traffic, accounts for 67 percent of all traffic through that area. Almost no one can remember the last time that anything was done to repair the roadway.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and contractor James Cape and Sons, of Racine, WI, tackled the $13.2-million project funded by the state. The project included resurfacing 16 kilometers (10 mi.) of US 287 north of Springfield, replacing or upgrading three bridges and totally resurfacing the 2.4-kilometer (1.5 mi.) stretch of roadway through the town itself. Along the way came two major glitches: a cement shortage and old man winter.
White topping the 16-kilometer (10 mi.) stretch north of town went smooth and easy, according to Brian Long, CDOT project engineer. “It was typical two-lane white topping. It raised the road 250 millimeters, so we had to shoulder all that with dirt, seed and mulch,” he said. The entire project required 319,587 square meters (383,504 sq. yds.) of concrete and 400 metric tons (440 tons) of asphalt. Machinery used included a Gunnert Zimmerman paver, Caterpillar graders, Ingersoll-Rand rollers and 15 tandem dump trucks.
Before the cement could be poured, a Caterpillar milling machine was employed to take the highs and lows out of the asphalt, creating an even surface. “The better the shape the asphalt is in, the better the base we will have,” said Eric Hoffman, project manager for Cape and Sons. Whether or not white topping can be used is actually determined by the base under the asphalt, he said, and not the quality of the asphalt itself. The advantage to the application is it can save money. “For me, it’s the first time I’ve been working with white topping,” said Hoffman. “It’s worked out well.”
Because the road was two lanes, it meant a 24-hour pilot car had to be used. “We split it up in phases,” Long said. The average wait for traffic was 20 to 25 minutes — for the first car in line, that is.
The project also involved replacing one bridge with a concrete box culvert, replacing the deck on a second bridge, and widening a third bridge to allow removal of the guard rail. “As far as maintenance, it’s easier to take care of and it takes away the safety hazard,” CDOT’s Long said of the third bridge. TLM Constructors of Swink, CO, was the subcontractor that replaced the bridge.
Downtown Springfield was another story. The original road had three layers: concrete, brick pavers and asphalt. “It had been three roadways at one time or another. We had to tear all that out and reconstruct the grade and put concrete on top. The roadway was in real bad shape,” said Long.
The 2.4-kilometer (1.5 mi.) long portion of the road was widened 60 centimeters (2 ft.) to either side of the existing roadway, which necessitated moving all utilities except gas, and putting in all new curb, gutter and sidewalk. As work proceeded, the cement shortage of 1998 reared its ugly head. Winter was approaching and CDOT and the contractor were concerned that the job wouldn’t be completed before cold winter temperatures, typical for that part of the state, set in. It was decided to postpone paving through the town till spring.
Hoffman said it turned out to be a good thing, as it provided time for the storm sewer and utilities to be moved before the pavers got to work. One-half of the town was paved and then the crews headed out to the Springfield airport. The town had hired the contractor to pave a new runway, 18 by 1,515 meters (60 by 5,000 ft.), and to tie it in to the old runway, which now serves as the taxiway. When that was completed, the paving crew finished the remaining half of downtown Springfield. Taking time out to do the airport added about 25 days to the highway project completion date.
Crews put in curb, gutter and sidewalk and were done by the end of October. Bricks from the second layer of original roadway were integrated into the design of the downtown sidewalk.
“It hasn’t been easy, but that’s the price of progress,” said a local merchant.
Town Manager Melvin Brisendine agreed the construction has been disruptive, but long overdue. “Overall, we’re pleased to get some dollars to the area for highway projects,” he said.