Hopes Run High for $20M Phenix City Development

Kansas’ Remote-Controlled Machines Used on Projects

Sat May 19, 2007 - Midwest Edition
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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) Motorists driving on Kansas highways might be surprised to know that no one is behind the wheel of some of the huge construction equipment used to repair the roads.

At a construction project east of Arlington on Kansas 61 in Reno County, eight 18-wheel machines that are removing and repairing asphalt are run by equipment operators wearing remote-control packs around their waists.

The packs, which control speed, steering and the machines’ height, were designed and built by Dustrol Inc., a Towanda-based contractor.

Dustrol’s recycling machines have always been operated from the ground, said Brian Hansen, vice president of Dustrol, but the remote controls were added approximately four years ago.

“They had to walk up to the trucks and make adjustments on it, but it was always done from outside a cab,” he said. “This allows your operator to move around the vehicle and observe what’s going on. … It gives you better control.”

Eight units slowly heat the existing asphalt, Hansen said. Four of those units have milling heads that cut the hot asphalt off in layers. The asphalt is then remixed, rejuvenation oil is added and the asphalt goes back onto the road.

APAC Kansas Shears, the resurfacing project general contractor from Hutchinson, will then put a 1-in. (2.5 cm) asphalt layer on top of the 2-in. (5 cm) recycled layer.

The train moves approximately 20 to 30 ft. (6 to 9 m) a minute and can complete approximately 2 mi. (3.2 km) of road per day. Dustrol also has a crew operating in Phillipsburg.

“We pretty much invented the concept,” Hansen said. “We’ve been in the construction and pavement recycling business for 30 years, so over the years we’ve developed different types of equipment for different purposes. It’s all evolved into what you see today on the road.”

A 2-in. depth recycle also is new for the state, said Martin Miller, a Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman from Hutchinson. The 2-in. mill should improve the removing of roadway cracks, which often go deeper than an inch, he said.

“It is a good way to rejuvenate the surface on asphalt roads, to squeeze more life out of old pavement,” Miller said.