Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Day In My Life..

You would think that a webmaster guru would just be sitting at home behind the computer at home sipping coffee. But the unfortunately, the affiliate earnings are too volatile of a basket to put all my eggs in. Plus, I have been at the highway department for over 20 years - so it is a bit hard to just quit, no matter how much I enjoy coffee.

So here is a day in my life at the highway department. Our job today is to install 2 catch basins (storm drains), crossover pipe and overflow pipe. The crew consists of me operating the Case backhoe, a "bottom man", 2 truck drivers, and a supervisor.

Well the day started out just great. Someone parked a truck really close to the trailer I need to hook into, so I had to back into the hitch at a pretty good angle. But since the Highway department is so short-handed due to layoffs, I tried to hook to the trailer without a spotter. I rammed the pintle right into the trailer plug, breaking it into a bunch of little pieces. Above you can see the mechanic fixing the plug while we load the supply trailer.

We put all the pipes and inlets on our implement trailer and chain everything down. Loading is done with a Bobcat with fork attachment.

I fill the "Jetter" trailer (plug fixed) with water. Water is need for the saw used in a later step. More pipe is also loaded on the ladder rack. You will also notice a trash pump in the back of the truck, and the side boxes and bed is loaded with everything we may need as the jobsite is 25 miles from the highway garage.

This may not look like much, but this is the whole reason we are here. There a lot of gravel roads in our county, and it has been county practice to turn these gravel roads into "chip and seal" roads. This is just an applied tar and stone application to relieve the residents of the dusting problem gravel roads can create. This procedure involves widening the road, which in turn means moving the ditches. Moving the ditches requires relocating the storm drains. The above photo is a storm drain that is too close to the edge of the road. Upon further inspection, the metal pipe going across the road is rusted out, so it also needs to be replaced.

Here is the drain on the other side of the road. It is not really evident in the photo, but there is a 3-4 foot drop-off right at the edge of the road - unsafe not only as our proposed chip and seal road, but even just how it is.

All set, let's tear it up! Case backhoe with extend-a-boom digs through the dirt and gravel with ease.

With the laser set up for depth measurements, a truck driver gets out to check readings and keep me going in the right direction and at the right depth.

Well we made it across, and in this photo you can see the clay tile on the far end that is a farm tile that drained into the old inlet and will need to be hooked back up into our structure.

The storm water will actually run from the far end to the near end in this photo, and the driver locates the outlet tile and readies it for plumbing into the structure that will be on this end.

The other truck driver is full of spoil, so he dumps his load where we need it to fill in the 3-4 foot drop-off, and he is sent for a load of gravel to fill in the trench.

This is how the holes are cut in the inlet structures. We are lucky to have a chain saw that is outfitted with a diamond blade. Water is fed through a garden hose to the saw that lubricates the blade. When all things are working well, the saw cuts through concrete and rebar. The cost of one of the saws, to the best of my recollection, is around $1600, with a chain costing $600. Not cheap, but it beats the hell out of a dry blade saw. The worker cutting the hole is actually the "bottom man", but he is the best at cutting the holes. So now we know what he was doing when the truck driver was in the hole.

The first structure is set in place and the pipes and tiles are fitted into the holes. When all pipes are installed, they are mortared in place. You will notice we are using dual wall plastic pipe. As long as you have enough coverage of gravel, the advantage is it will never rust out.

Surprise, we found another "side" tile and had to "Y" it into the the other inlet pipe. Gravel is placed over the larger pipe to stabilize everything, and we are ready for mortar. We hand mix it in a wheel barrow and wheel it over to the work site.

Above the 12" plastic pipe, we are installing a 15" metal "overflow" pipe. You may have noticed that the outlet pipe was only a 6" clay tile. This small of a tile can only drain so much water, so the overflow pipe is like an insurance policy. If the drains are full and cannot accept any more water, the overflow pipe will allow the water to run out over the surface and not wash out the road.

Oh yea, I forgot to say I had to hook a chain to it and find a way around all the equipment and bring the pipe to the trench.

The supervisor gave the upper trench a few final readings to make sure the water will run in the intended direction and also to make sure the road surface will cover the metal pipe by about a foot of gravel.

Time's up. Cover the pipe with stone to get the road open and pull the road closed signs. We can't work overtime because the county is broke. (actually we completed this in around 9 hours including loading and drive time with no lunch) A little touchup and landscaping tomorrow and we can move on to the next project.
Update: 9-23-09 (next day)

It rained pretty hard overnight, so it was a little difficult lanscaping mud. When we are done with all out drainage projects, another crew will run a tractor with a fine grading landscaping attachment. The whole road will be hydroseeded and the road conversion process will be completed. Our county converts around 8 miles of gravel road to chip and seal a year. Depending on the difficulty of all the things that need to be done, 1 mile of road takes around 3- 4 weeks. There may be 3 different road conversions going on at the same time, in different stages of completion.

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