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How Do Road Workers Deal with the Heat? Ice!
Even though they started early Wednesday morning, workers spent all morning and part of the afternoon laying concrete along a bridge north of Lincoln on Interstate 55 under the beating sun.
Hot weather can cause all sorts of problems on a job site, especially where concrete is concerned. Hot concrete will set faster, eventually causing excessive cracking in the pavement and strength concerns. But as temperatures in the area were in the mid-90s and the heat index around 100, ice mixed into the concrete allowed them to continue the work.
"Otherwise we wouldn't be pouring because of the extreme heat," Freesen Inc. superintendent Harold Tripp said. "But we're on a tight time frame here. So we've got to."
The company handling the concrete on the project said they use 22-pound bags of ice to cool the mix down. That's the same kind of bag you'll find at a convenience store.
Of course, they use a bit more.
"They started out this morning, and the temperature was 73 degrees, and we started out with two bags of ice per yard," Tripp said. "So, it just went up from then."
And up and up. By the end of the day, almost 24,000 pounds of ice had been used on the project - the equivalent of 1,078 bags.
Ice isn't the only way to keep concrete cool, though. Capitol Ready Mix in Springfield uses a water chiller to get the water for its concretes to a chilly 39 degrees. When necessary, they add ice in, too, but dumping bag after bag of ice into the mix takes time and money.
"You've got the cost of the ice and the cost of the labor to put the ice in the trucks, and it can get very costly," manager Jamie Maley said.
It can cost the company if they don't, too. The Illinois Department of Transportation won't take any concrete with internal temperatures over 90 degrees on its projects.
Also, beyond quality concerns, hot concrete is just hard to use.
"By the time it gets out of the truck you don't have the workability you would if you had concrete within spec - or temperature - and it just makes it unbearable to work with," Maley said.