The United States road-building industry stands at the precipice of the largest infrastructure building boom since the 1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways broke ground—if and when Congress passes a new surface transportation bill.
President Obama called for a fundamental overhaul of the country’s surface transportation systems and the enactment of a $50 billion down payment on a long-term transportation bill in the lame-duck session of Congress.
In the months and sometimes years prior to a signed highway bill, delays are common, but now the legislative delays themselves are compounding the country’s economic problems.
“It is very hard for contractors to feel secure and make investments, particularly capital investments like large-scale equipment purchases, in this environment,” says Bill Davenport of the American Concrete Pavement Association. “Contractors make buying and expansion decisions predicated upon the prospect of growth, not on stagnation. Passage of a comprehensive highway and FAA bill is very much dependent on the leadership of the legislature, and that is one of the challenges. There has been a wide range of other issues that have taken precedence over the transportation bill.
“We are confident we will see a highway bill, but we haven’t seen any definitive signs that one is moving forward at this time,” he says.
Concrete pavement will play a large part in the nation’s infrastructure investment plans, and savvy manufacturers are using the current construction industry lull to introduce new features that solve old problems such as maneuverability, quick paving kit changes, and controls technology that save labor and material costs.
Current growth pockets in the concrete paving industry include airport runway construction, which requires wide-width slipform paving equipment that can meet tight time constraints, and concrete overlays, which use lighter weight and slimmer profile paving machines that also offer greater maneuverability. As building and road reconstruction picks up, fleet managers are asking for slipform pavers that can also perform efficiently both mainline paving and in tight urban environments.
GOMACO’s new GP-2400 half-width slipform paver is the result of a contractor asking the company to design a slipform paver with a tight turning radius capacity. The GP-2400, which can pave widths from 10 to 24 feet with inserts, has 10-foot GOMACO Series-two tracks capable of turning tighter than traditional length. The tracks allow for a minimum machine transport width of 10 feet for ease of transport from jobsite to jobsite. The GP-2400 paving widths range from 10 to 24 feet with the standard telescoping frame and frame inserts. The GP-2400 has GOMACO’s G+ control system, programmed to operate in several languages, which offers self-diagnostics for grade and steering. The control panel shows the various aspects of the paver such as a “run” screen, leg positioning, steering, and travel information grade information. Sixteen vibrator circuits are standard on the GP-2400. GOMACO’s vice president, Kent Godbersen, stresses the “sophisticated simplicity” of the paver’s operation and its versatility to adapt to site and project specifications.
Guntert & Zimmerman’s new S600 multipurpose concrete slipform paver is the company’s first small paver in their lineup and is designed to be mechanically and financially more flexible. Marketing coordinator David Lipari says the company is responding to the market’s call for more economical and efficient pavers.
“We designed a lighter machine that allows us to integrate more features our customers want,” says Lipari. “We’ve designed in a universal bolting pattern all around the center module of the machine so that almost anything you can think of can be bolted on the machine, like barrier molds, offset molds and zero clearance molds. The S600 is designed to be more mobile, reconfigure fast, and change widths quickly to give the contractor more paving time during the day and do more paving jobs without needing multiple pavers.”
The S600 features a double telescopic tractor frame and hose hinge system for a working range of 8 to 29 feet with frame extensions. The S600’s narrow profile allows less than 2 feet of space from the edge of the pavement to the widest point of the paver.
Budgeted paving time is affected by the equipment’s paving speed and the machine’s ease of use. Pavers can eat up time while changing widths and reconfiguring the machine. Terex and Guntert & Zimmerman are offering new technology that slakes the machine’s hunger.
The new Terex Series 6 slipform paving kit, available for the Terex SF3500 C Series pavers, eliminates the hundreds of nut-and-bolt connections commonly found on conventional paver kits. A proprietary wedge-and-pin locking system allows the Terex kit to reduce change times and be ready to resume paving in about five hours, instead of the more traditional two days required by other kits. The Series 6 kit features quick-post disconnects between the kit and the tractor, which at the 24-foot paving width (paving widths range from 12 to 38 feet), reduces hose length by 500 feet.
Changing tractor and paving widths on G&Z’s S600 is easier and faster using its new optional TeleEnds (telescopic paving kit end sections) on the S600 paver that provide an additional 3 feet on each side that take a two-person crew less than two hours to configure. The S600 VariWidth tractor frame width change system, working together with the AccuSteer system, provides telescopic tractor width changes and eliminates all clamping bolts. The S600 extension tubes slide from the center module on rollers and are held in place while in operation with an automatic hydraulic clamping puck system. The operator flips a switch to release the hydraulic pucks from one side of the machine and walks the machine in or out using the 90-degree steering mode. Hydraulic hoses and electrical cables between the power unit and the end bolsters are contained in G&Z’s hose-management hinge system which eliminates the requirement to change hoses for width changes.
G&Z addresses the maneuverability issue with the new AccuSteer slew drive track control system. The system’s slew drives are mounted on top of the track yokes and steer the tracks. The drives are powered with hourglass worm technology that engages multiple teeth on the pitch line of the ring gear from the hourglass thread. The system allows the operator to independently rotate the tracks 320 degrees, providing maneuverability and rapid swing leg relocation for paving and transport without the need to re-pin steering cylinders. When paired with the new SmartLeg swing leg system, the contractor can maneuver around track line obstacles such as fire hydrants and runway lights without stopping for a bolster adjustment.