Foster, Rhode Island

Why does the road crew for the Town of Foster, RI have a rig that looks like it should be stuck on the back of a tractor hanging from the front of its snowplow trucks?

Several years ago, Foster had a problem keeping its dirt roads in decent shape during the summer until they tried maintaining them with something called a Front Runner. This device is actually an attachment that fits onto the front of the towns trucks in place of the snowplow. It is pushed ahead of the truck and provides a very effective means of grading the roads while getting rid of ruts and potholes.

When Foster found itself hit with early and late winter snowstorms, the kind that come either before the ground has frozen, or even worse, after it has turned to springtime mud, highway foreman Walter May decided to try the Front Runner as an alternate to conventional plows (which dig up the soft roads). The results were so favorable that Walter now has a second Front Runner primarily for snow removal. Continue reading “Foster, Rhode Island”

Those Early Winter Snowstorms…

Anyone who’s tried to plow a gravel road before it has frozen knows the problem. Snowplows are designed with an aggressive angle of attack to peel packed snow from a road and roll it up and out of the way. If a road surface is soft, the plow doesn’t know where the snow stops and the gravel begins. Consequently, gravel often ends up in the side ditch or on lawns along with the snow. Not only does this mean damage to the road and a cleanup job for the spring, but it can also mean damage to the plowtruck, plow and even the operator.

Although plow shoes are designed to hold a cutting edge off the surface, they often prove inadequate when roads are soft.To provide extra support, some operators weld a cutting edge flat across the bottom of the plow (parallel to the road) to increase its surface area. Other operators simply lift the plow just enough to keep it off the road which works fine until the truck encounters uneven ground or a wheel falls into a pothole. In either case, the prudent operator goes slower than normal to reduce damage if the plow should happen to dig in. Continue reading “Those Early Winter Snowstorms…”

A Bucket of Stone plus a Bucket of Mud = ?

What do you get when you add a bucket of stone to a bucket of mud? According to one explanation I’ve heard, you just get a bigger bucket of mud. Of course this point of view might be a bit suspect because it came from a geotextile salesman. The point is well taken, however, that adding something to a muddy road often has little effect, and can, in fact, sometimes make matters worse because of increased agitation of an already sticky situation.

I have found, however, that there are times when little else can be done except to add aggregate to a section of road that appears bottomless for a while in the Springtime. WHAT you add and HOW MUCH OF IT is what makes the difference between success and gooey failure.

From years of road maintenance and site development, I’ve found that the only practical way to treat a mudhole is to add enough coarse aggregate to fill the entire hole, essentially bridging the weak spot with strong supporting material. This material needs to be extremely porous and can consist of rocks or large crushed stone (not peastone), and should contain virtually no sand or fines. The goal is to provide enough of this coarse material so that, once it’s in place, each rock or stone touches another, and the mud that was there now just fills the gap between stones. The emergency repair takes on the characteristics of the fill material rather than the mud it has replaced. Continue reading “A Bucket of Stone plus a Bucket of Mud = ?”