Cover Story: Forecast: Increased flexibility

In conversations about future paving work during this year’s World of Concrete in Las Vegas, contractors say they have work lined up for this year until fall – but are taking a wait-and-see attitude after that. A good fallback position, according to many: paving equipment that is flexible and able to adapt to a wider variety of concrete paving jobs. Manufacturers of concrete slipform pavers with a maximum paving width of less than 34 feet offer their recommendations for concrete paving contractors who want to keep their machines busy and their job options open.

Terex Roadbuilding
The Terex SF3500B Series slipform pavers, a two-track SF3502B and the new four-track SF3504B, are constructed of 26-inch mainframe tubing to minimize deflection paving on widths from 12 to 33 feet. The SF3502B has standard 14-inch-wide tracks, and the SF3504B features 18-inch tracks and track yokes that will accommodate optional track pads up to 20 inches wide. Both models are equipped with the Terex Series 6 paving kit (see the January 2008 issue), that features a rigid heavy-duty strongbox design and uses an exclusive wedge and pin locking system that significantly reduces the time a contractor requires to change paving widths.

For projects that have shorter or multiple pulls, Tom Devonshire, sales engineer for concrete mobile products at Terex Roadbuilding, says, “Our SF2204 HVW (hydraulic variable width) paver is effective for cut up jobs where the machine only needs to pave a section, then move to another location to pave a different width on another project the same day.” The SF-2204’s mainframe telescopes to push or pull the connected tandem paving molds to the required paving width without adding or removing any sections. In one instance, says Devonshire, a contractor was able to stop paving, hydraulically telescope the paver to its minimum 8-foot 3-inch transport width, take it to the next lane and resume paving in under an hour.

The SF-2204 HVW can be used to form barriers, curb and gutter, and zero clearance applications, allowing contractors to do a variety of projects.

Power Pavers
While new residential road building projects are down, state and townships are still budgeting for pavement rehabilitation this year. For contractors doing white-topping, Power Pavers’ general manager, Fred Hite, recommends the low-profile SF-2700 slipform paver. “The SF-2700’s narrow side clearance and adjustable paving widths (12 to 32 feet), works well for parking lots, residential and inner city paving, highway ramps and lane additions,” Hite says. “The SF-2700’s size and paving depth of up to 16 inches makes it large enough to do primary and secondary road construction but still doesn’t require disassembly to transport.”

The larger SF-3000 is Power Pavers’ choice for roads that must meet pavement smoothness specs. The frame hydraulically widens 48 inches on each side for a total of 8 feet before the insertion of additional ridged frame inserts. The telescoping 20-inch-deep mainframe is adjustable up to 9 inches. Hydraulic loading legs lift 42 inches, allowing the lowboy to back under the machine. The SF-3000 paves 12 to 27 feet and will go to 32 feet with optional extensions.

Another manufacturer recognizing that contractors are broadening their services to stay profitable is Heavy Equipment Manufacturing (HEM). For smaller applications, HEM introduces the HEM 8-16 two- and four-track models. Both models can be configured to pour curbs and gutters cart paths, single lane and turn lanes, and can also be equipped with a trimmer head for grade preparation. The HEM 8-16 paves widths up to 20 feet with optional extensions.

Heavy Equipment Manufacturing’s CEO, Roger Bockes, says their model HEM 12-27, available in two- or four-track models, can be configured to pave everything from parking lots to streets, highways, canals and other special applications. The HEM 12-27 uses a hydraulic sliding frame design that lets users change paving widths with ease. A hydraulic side bar inserter allows workers to place dowel bars at equal spacing and depth.

Technology is making GOMACO’s GHP-2800 concrete slipform paver easier to setup and simpler to operate. The GHP-2800’s dual-telescoping frame hydraulically widens to pave widths from 12 to 32 feet and features pivoting legs for variable track placement in changing jobsite conditions and easy transport. The paver’s vibrators and tamper bar are hydraulically powered and synchronized with the machine’s movement. The G21 operating system, standard on the GHP-2800, features a counter-rotation program that allows the operator to turn the paver 360 degrees within its own dimensions. The G21 control system displays machine function information and automatically pinpoints electrical circuit opens, shorts and fault codes for servicing. This year GOMACO introduces its G22 operating system with a dual language option. The G22 controls are displayed in both English and a major second language, and offers measurements in both metric and imperial formats.

The GHP-2800 also has a redesigned fiberglass engine shroud that gives it a lower profile and increases the operator’s visibility and safety. New vibrator modules tilt in and out for easy accessibility and transport.

Roadbuilding projections for 2008
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s senior economist Diego Saltes says he expects road and transportation construction to increase about 3 percent in 2008 over last year. The value of highway pavement projects rose nearly $2 billion in 2007. Because highway and bridge construction make up the largest portion of transportation projects, ARTBA’s growth forecast expects the value of bridge and highway construction will rise to about $78 billion this year.

Better Roads, a sister publication of Equipment World directed to the government/contractor road project team, says one-third of state DOTs anticipate a modest 2-percent budget increase, and about 25 percent are looking at budget cuts of 2 percent, according to its 2007-2008 Annual Forecast Survey. County budgets are echoing state expectations, and townships are holding their own and don’t expect cuts. Agencies are emphasizing bridge deck repair and pavement maintenance projects while new road construction is slowing, according to the Better Roads survey. The housing downturn, with fewer home sales and lower appraised housing values, is impacting tax collections and local highway construction spending.

Cost increases for highway construction materials have slowed, only up 5 percent in 2007 over the previous year. ARTBA expects materials cost will continue to moderate this year, with the exception of oil prices. Easing inflation in materials costs may allow state and local agencies to support more projects this year.

Paving contractors are also keeping an eye on government funding for projects in 2008-09. Industry advocates are working to keep politicians focused on the necessity of keep transportation construction strong, not an easy task in an election year.

ARTBA is aggressively encouraging Congress to ensure the Highway Trust Fund is fully funded when they consider their version of the economic stimulus package suggested by the Administration in January. According to Jeff Solsby, ARTBA’s director of public affairs, an amendment to the economic stimulus package has been discussed, designating $5 billion for transportation construction.

Speaking at the annual House Democratic Caucus retreat, ARTBA’s vice president of economics and research, Dr. Bill Buechner, warned that, “Cutting highway investment will lead to lost jobs at a time when the economy is struggling. Such a move would likely undermine congressional efforts on an overall economic stimulus package.”