New Mexico DOT Rehabilitates NM 529
Aiming to rehabilitate deteriorating pavement and correct safety deficiencies on New Mexico Highway 529, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) District Two set out to rehabilitate the rural road.
"NM 529 was identified in the State Transportation Improvement Program as a route needing upgrading due to safety, traffic load and structural improvements," says Manon Arnett, Spokesperson for NMDOT District Two office. It entails "roadway rehabilitation and reconstruction, involving roadway widening, drainage structures, drainage improvement, and new signage. The project will greatly improve safety by providing a safer travel route from Artesia to Hobbs."
Alan Briley, a Construction Engineer with NMDOT, adds that while the road is rural, a lot of truck traffic coming and going from the oil fields use the two-lane road. It is well traveled. There had been a number of rear-end accidents. The NMDOT is adding passing lanes, shoulders, and acceleration and deceleration lanes to make it safer.
Governor Susana Martinez visited the project last year and commented that the road was built before the area experienced the heavy truck traffic. She called the area a major player in the state's economic growth and cited the need for improved roads to support commerce. The department broke the project into two phases.
"We divided it because of the size and cost," Briley says. "When the engineers scope the projects, they look at the amount of work and how much reconstruction and overlay. They try to keep it less than $20 million if they can, because of management and administration of it. The local bidders can handle smaller projects, so that's what they gear it to."
NMDOT finished the first phase of NM 529, from mile marker 22 to 31, in June 2016. This 9-mile phase included cold mill and overlay of the driving lanes; new 8-foot shoulders; replacing, clearing and repairing existing drainage culverts; and the addition of passing lanes. This phase of the project took more than a year to complete and cost approximately $13 million.
The NMDOT Hobbs Construction Project Office and the contractor, Fisher Sand and Gravel of Placitas, New Mexico, won the Best in New Mexico Asphalt Pavement Award from the Asphalt Pavement Association of New Mexico (APANM) for the first phase of the project.
"Every year, APANM gives quality awards for projects across the state," Briley explains. "It includes quality of the contractor, quality of the materials, and quality of our inspections. It was a combination of everything that clicked."
Fisher Sand and Gravel also received a 2016 Quality in Construction Award for this project from the National Asphalt Paving Association. It was in the category of Green, Innovative Asphalt Pavements over 50,000 tons. The national association said in its announcement that Fisher Sand & Gravel "reduced the project's environmental footprint by incorporating reclaimed asphalt pavement into project mixes and by using warm mix asphalt to cut greenhouse gas emissions."
NMDOT used electronic compact road profilers, attached to vehicles, to measure the smoothness of the pavement. This road came in third in the state for smoothness, Briley reports. "We worked well with the contractor," Manon adds.
The Introduction of Intelligent Compaction
Additionally, on this project, the NMDOT specified for the first time the use of intelligent compaction as a pilot. Fisher Sand and Gravel employed GPS, LIDAR and on-board computers to measure the amount of bounce back and vibration as the paver's roller passed across the road. The specially equipped roller measures the compaction, which is important in attaining high quality and uniformity in the road. The rollers are able to compact more pavement with fewer passes than regular rollers, often in less time. The equipment also maps the speed and number of passes and the effectiveness of the compaction processes.
"You are able to determine if you are getting the right rebound to get the proper compaction," Briley says. "It was a tool used by the contractor to save money."
Briley explains that the contractor had to make fewer passes while paving. If the NMDOT determines it was beneficial, he expects it will become an expectation on DOT projects.
The Federal Highway Administration has studied intelligent compaction. A December 2014 report concluded that while intelligent compaction technologies are evolving, the public will benefit from "longer lasting roads." The FHWA also indicates that intelligent compaction can speed pavement construction. The agency estimates that an investment in this technology will break even within two years.
Fisher Sand and Gravel, founded in 1952 in North Dakota, by Gene Fisher, began as an aggregate processing company and evolved into a leader in portable crushing. It is the parent company of Fisher Industries, a multifaceted company headquartered in Dickinson, North Dakota. Fisher Sand & Gravel primarily locates, processes, and delivers sand and aggregate products.
The second phase on the remaining 22 miles of NM 529, in Eddy/Lea County, began in April 2016. The $23 million project includes pavement preservation, shoulder widening, passing lanes, drainage structures, traffic control, fencing, signing and striping, and other miscellaneous construction. James Hamilton Construction Co., of Silver City, New Mexico, holds the contract and has divided it into four phases. On the west end, the company was working on the shoulders in May. While on the east end, crews have completed paving. "The shear distance on this one makes it interesting," Briley says.
This 18-month project includes 22 miles of rehabilitated pavement on NM 529 from mile marker 0, just east of Loco Hills in Eddy County, to mile marker 22 in Lea County. The rehabilitated section of roadway will provide a smoother ride quality.
Arnett says that the most challenging aspect of the project has been dealing with the amount of heavy truck traffic. Charles Hamilton, CEO of James Hamilton Construction agrees. "The traffic can be heavy at times with machinery and workers going back and forth from the oil fields," Hamilton says. "This is a much-needed project."
James Hamilton Construction discovered early on that the existing road was flat. With traditional milling and overlay, it would not drain well in the rain. Hamilton suggested profile milling to the DOT district, which added a crown, higher in the middle enabling water to drain to the outside. Crews completed the profiling with GPS-equipped machines.
The contractor has used standard traffic channelization, the application of traffic control devices such as signs, signal and marking to regulate traffic and reduce speeds through the work zone. Additionally, James Hamilton Construction is performing the work during the day, so drivers can easily see what is happening and detours. The company created shorter, 2-mile work zones and has been running a pilot car to escort traffic in one direction through the construction zone and then driving in the other direction with traffic that has been waiting. The pilot car is necessary when there are miles of closed road in a given stretch. "It's a continual pilot car and an escort around the construction," Briley says.
Hamilton adds that the pilot car is a safe way to move traffic through the work zone and control the tempo of the traffic, adding, "Our intent is to do what we can to keep traffic flowing and our workers safe."
Hamilton Construction performs heavy road construction and small projects. In addition, it works with the Tyrone and Chino mines and offers a variety of rock and materials.
Arnett adds that the NMDOT is proud of the safe running of the project and the co-operation between agency staff and contractor.
"In its entirety, the project has run smoothly," Arnett says. The contract deadline is set for November, but NMDOT anticipates an early completion.