Council Vote Could Pave The Way To A Smoother Ride

Dec 9, 2013

The City of Charlotte’s looking to invest in some new equipment that may literally smooth your commute.

A model of the paver the City Council will approve the purchase of tonight (bottom) and a model of excavators like the city currently uses to patch pavement (top). The models are to different scales.
Credit Ben Bradford / WFAE

Those large, squarish patches of asphalt, slightly darker than the rest of the road, often lead to a bumpy ride. Those are areas where the city has patched the road. Right now, the city uses a machine called an excavator—picture a tractor with a crane on the front that ends in a claw.

“They use the teeth on the excavator to actually break and tear out the pavement. It’s harder to control your depth,” says Charles Jones, administrative manager at the city’s Department of Transportation. “It’s like trying to plant a flower in a flower bed with a big shovel or a snow shovel.”

Then the excavator head, along with employees using what look like rakes, tamp new asphalt down by hand. Jones says this technique is a little behind the times.

So, tonight the city council is scheduled to replace an old excavator with two new machines: a zipper, which evenly grinds out old pavement, and a paver, which evenly replaces it.

Jones says it will make a major difference for road quality.

“It’s one that people will definitely notice over time,” he says.

At under $300,000 altogether, Jones says the two machines will cost less than one excavator and those patches will last longer.