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posted: 8/11/2012 7:59 AM

No rain, no problem for some construction projects

Only heat was an issue

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  • You might not like the sight of orange barrels as you drive around the suburbs during the summer, but this year's extraordinarily dry weather has been a blessing for construction workers.

       You might not like the sight of orange barrels as you drive around the suburbs during the summer, but this year's extraordinarily dry weather has been a blessing for construction workers.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Road construction continues at Randall Road and Route 20 in Elgin, where work rarely has been interrupted by rain this summer.

       Road construction continues at Randall Road and Route 20 in Elgin, where work rarely has been interrupted by rain this summer.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 
 

The ongoing drought has been terrible for the farming business, but some who work in road construction have actually benefited from this summer's extra dry weather.

Ryan Heuser of Marengo, who works for Hoffman Estates-based Plote Construction, said work has proceeded at a great pace all summer because there's been no real delays caused by rain.

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"With the dry weather, we can just keep rolling," said Heuser, a mechanic who works on portable concrete batch plants. "We had one day off (Thursday) because of rain, but it hasn't slowed us down. That was nothing. Overall, it's been great."

In his 20 years in the business, there certainly have been better summers with more jobs available, but not many with better weather -- despite the challenges of working in the heat, he said.

"During the heat wave, we just moved jobs from daytime to nighttime," he said.

Russ Ginn, senior construction manager at Plote, said earth-moving jobs have benefited the most from the good weather.

"We had a great year all around -- we had an early spring and dry summer. It's been great," he said, rain the last two days notwithstanding.

Some road projects have been going at a faster pace than usual this summer, state and county transportation officials said.

"We have been able to make good progress on projects where there is primarily excavation and earth work required," Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said. "The flip side is that it was very hot this summer, and that has created a challenge on those projects where concrete needs to be poured."

For example, excavation work for the so-called Western Bypass of Route 31 in downtown Algonquin began in June and has proceeded quickly. But for the widening and reconstruction of Route 53 in parts of Addison and Itasca, some of the scheduled concrete pouring that coincided with July's heat wave had to be postponed a few weeks, he said.

The total effects of the drought on the overall construction season are hard to predict, Tridgell said. "It's too soon to tell if any project is delayed or ahead of schedule," he said.

David Boesch, chief of construction for the Kane County Division of Transportation, said the weather has helped a few projects get ahead of schedule.

"Any large earth-moving project would be begging for this kind of weather," he said.

Kane County is running 14 road construction projects right now; three of those projects -- the largest being the widening and reconstruction of Orchard Road in Montgomery -- are ahead by a few weeks. The rest are on schedule, he said.

However, weather is not the only factor that affects the pace of construction, Boesch said.

"There's availability of materials, labor, contract coordination," he said. "We may be a couple of weeks ahead now, but there is a lot more left."

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has very little earth-moving work in this year's program, so the dry weather hasn't had much effect in that regard, spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said, but the lack of rain helped the tollway authority's overnight paving operations.

"Typically, if it rains overnight, we must halt paving operations and wait until the pavement has dried before starting again," she said. "There have been very few cancellations in paving operations this summer due to the lack of rain."

Lawrence Anderson, executive vice president of the Lake County Contractors Association, said most jobs have a built-in estimation of rain delays, which haven't happened this summer.

"There's an advantage in the number of days you can work," he said. "We have 185 members, and none of them are complaining. This just makes it easier to finish a project, but these projects can take years and months to work through."

Ed Maher, spokesman for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, also said that while he empathized with the farmers who are adversely affected, this has been a good summer for his union workers. This was particularly welcome after the very rainy spring of 2011, Maher said.

"When you wake up in morning and it's raining, you don't work that day -- you don't get paid," he said. "But for better part of the early summer, there were absolutely no rain days. It means that the guys are working as much as the market will allow."

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