'Zipper' streamlines patching process
Sections of Idaho 81 east of Declo are in poor condition. Years of heavy truck traffic and blistering winters have taken their toll resulting in deep and dangerous wheel ruts.
But it’s only the ruts, not the entire road that needs replaced. That is where the Asphalt Zipper has come in handy. A four-foot wide roto-mill, the Zipper is mounted on the bucket of a front-end loader and carves a groove about two-and-a-half inches deep dig out the worst sections.
In a 12-foot lane, milling and replacing the asphalt in only the worst four feet is being considered by District Four as one of several ways to save precious road maintenance funds while preserving the road for a few more years.
The Zipper was touted in the 2007 ITD Efficiency Report as being utilized by the districts to provide one-time or on-going savings. By milling and patching only the worst sections of road, the Zipper saves in asphalt costs stated in the report to be $85,000 over milling and paving the entire width.
“It saves a third over doing the entire lane and you get it where it’s the worst,” Stacey said.
Jerome foreman Chuck Chapin discovered the Zipper at a trade show and was instrumental in bringing it to the district about four years ago. Chapin also was also instrumental in getting the piece of equipment in the district.
In three years, the Zipper has been put to the test in both small and large applications – over mile-long stretches on the interstate and for small patches on nearly every highway in the district.
“It’s been used to the greatest degree in the Rupert Maintenance area and in a large part on Interstate 84 where wheel ruts made driving conditions extremely difficult. With the greatest amount of experience, the Rupert crew has been working on perfecting and making their operation even more efficient. One measure includes using a snowplow with modified grader blade attached to the plow to push the milled material off the road.
“We improved the process. We’re down to equipment doing all the work and no manpower to move the material,” Rupert foreman Allen Knight said. “We continue to fine-tune our methods to move more material and get more done.”
Knight said his 12-16-person crew, if conditions were ideal, probably could mill and pave more than 3,000 feet per day.
"It’s a quick fix, a Band-Aid to get rid of soft material,” Knight added.
Stacey said the district is looking to extend the use of the Zipper by purchasing a second unit as well as a new paver to replace the aging paving box currently being used.
“It will be an even better operation when we get those in place,” Stacey said.