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Why do road construction projects take so long?

Post Date:01/01/2020

Road improvement projects always seem to take longer than we think they should. Sometimes that is due to weather delays, but often it is simply because of all the complex steps involved in getting the project done. In general, here is a guide of what to expect when a street is being reconstructed:

Step 1: Residents are notified. Residents that live within the project area are notified well before any construction activities begin. Often times, there is a neighborhood meeting where they can come and get more information on the details and timing of the project. About one week before a street project begins, signs are posted in the area to alert road users of the upcoming construction. 

Step 2: Road is closed to thru traffic. Access to the roadway is limited to those that live in the project area so the amount of traffic that uses the roadway during construction is minimal. 

Step 3: Infrastructure repairs. Utility crews take this opportunity to look below the street and inspect all water main, storm sewer, and sanitary sewer components to see if repairs are needed. It’s much less expensive and a whole lot easier to fix something now when the road is already under construction. This process is the most time consuming and difficult part of an improvement project because it may involve deep excavation and water service may need to be temporarily interrupted. 

Step 4: Out with the old. After all the infrastructure work is complete, the old, current pavement surface is milled or grinded away and curb and gutters are removed as necessary. 

Step 5: Curb and gutters installed. After the old pavement is removed and any necessary utility work is completed, new curb and gutters are installed. 

Step 6. Grading the road surface. Depending on the soils encountered under the existing road, the existing soil may need to be excavated and hauled away. Trucks will then haul in gravel to make the road surface even and prepare it for the new layers of asphalt. 

Step 7: First layer of paving. All new asphalt roads are paved in two or more layers. The first layer is called the base course. This layer is about 3 inches thick and provides a smooth surface so it is easier for residents to drive on while crews work on sidewalks, driveways, restoration with topsoil and seeding/sod, and raising manholes to the level of the new street. This layer also helps with drainage during rainstorms and reduces the amount of dust in the air. 

Step 8: Let it sit. Paving the base course and letting it sit for a while gives the new road time to settle before the final layer of asphalt is applied. This step is especially important if deep excavation took place for utility work. On some projects, the final layer of asphalt may not be placed until the following year to allow any settlements to occur. That way there will not be any patches on the final layer of asphalt.

Step 9: Second layer of paving. This layer is called the wear course and is 1.5 inches thick. This is the final component of the new road. Soon after the final layer of asphalt is paved and cooled down, it will be striped with pavement markings, and re-opened for traffic. 

For more information on road construction, please contact our Engineering Division at 952-882-2671.

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