Potholes Meet Their Match In Steamboat Springs
Good maintenance practices and quality machinery ensure city encounters few rough patches
As an internationally renowned snow-skiing destination, it should come as no surprise that Colorado’s Steamboat Springs typically experiences long winters, with lots of snow, other wet precipitation, and multiple freeze-thaw cycles. Potholes sprout regularly from November through April each year along the city’s 160 lane miles of streets and roads. And patching these road hazards becomes a part of the street department’s daily maintenance schedule.
Like many public works departments in colder climates, Steamboat Springs must rely on cold patching processes through most of the winter and early spring as it works to fill potholes. But this little city has a mighty weapon in its arsenal that has helped in its fight against the pothole plague, providing a better cold-mix patch in the winter, and finishing the jobs in the summer with a permanent patch.
Back in September 2002, Steamboat Springs purchased an FP5 Flameless Pothole Patcher from Waco, Texas-based Akzo Nobel Asphalt Applications (ANAA). At the time, the FP5 was a new product in the company’s lineup of asphalt maintenance machines – having been introduced only a year earlier. The FP5 replaced ANAA’s earlier propane-fired model, the TP4.
“10 to 15 more permanent patches a day with FP5”
A mere five months after Steamboat Springs’ purchase, Bergkamp Inc acquired the assets and ongoing business of ANAA. Based in Salina, Kansas, Bergkamp has continued developing and manufacturing the FP5, along with certain other slurry seal and micro surfacing equipment. As an additional condition of its acquisition, Bergkamp has committed to providing parts and service support to Akzo Nobel’s equipment customers worldwide.
Pothole Patching Performance
“The FP5 is the only patching equipment we own,” says Jason Weber, Fleet Superintendent for the City of Steamboat Springs. “We are a small operation, as far as asphalt maintenance goes. The larger portion of our maintenance is sent out for bid (through contractors).” During the winter months, when hot mix plants are closed, Weber says Steamboat Springs’ street department crew has to rely on cold mix patching. The crew digs out the loose material in the hole, adds cold mix and compacts it with the FP5’s compactor. The bonus the FP5 provides to this method is that the cold mix is heated in the unit, which allows it to hold together better, providing a hardier, longer-lasting patch than if it was put in place at ambient outdoor temperatures.
600 to 700 tons of asphalt each year
“In the summer, when the hot mix plants open up, we are then able to do a full reclaim patch, “ Weber says. He explains that the patch is made again with the FP5, but for a more permanent repair, the crew digs out the pothole and squares off the edges, then applies a tack coat and adds the hot asphalt. The final step is the consolidation of the patch with the compactor. “During the winter and early spring, we do probably 10 to 15 patches a day with the FP5,” says Weber. “Once warmer temperatures arrive, and into the summer, we will complete the pothole patching – typically running 600 to 700 tons of asphalt through the machine each year.”
A Reliable Asset
For a machine that is pushing 20 years old, Steamboat Springs’ FP5 has proven itself to be a reliable asset to the city year in and year out. Of course, the city’s fleet maintenance department does adhere to ideal practices for preventative maintenance to protect its investment. Weber says the regular maintenance program includes bringing in the patcher every 100 hours for a basic checkup. “We see to its needs for greasing and oil change, among other things,” he explains. “From a service aspect, it is like any other piece of mobile equipment. We maintain it for oil, wear parts, tires… We fix anything that is broken. And because it has a generator on it, our techs are versed in higher voltages and amps, to safely make sure everything is working right,” he notes.
Twice a year, the patcher receives a thorough inspection, to determine if it needs a new auger, new flightings, etc. Rebuilds take place in the winter, and a mid-summer inspection ensures that everything is functioning well, as the machine has been working hard to create permanent pothole patches. “We have only one of these machines, so it is crucial to our program that we protect it,” Weber adds.
Maintenance by the Numbers
Breaking down the maintenance plan for Steamboat Springs’ FP5 patcher, Weber says his department has invested $30,000 in parts over 17 years. The maintenance crew has performed 945 hours of service labor on the machine, which may sound like a lot of labor, but the patcher has performed 8,200 hours of work during that same 17-year period. “Our maintenance routine breaks down to about 83¢ a mile,” he says.
Weber goes on to explain that in comparing maintenance costs to capital value, when the city reaches 60% maintenance costs versus the capital value of a machine, then it will begin to look at replacing the machine. “With our FP5, we are at 33% maintenance to capital value, even with this being a 2002 model. We don’t incur that much cost in its usage (to justify the purchase of a new machine). This has been a great machine for us,” he says.
Great Return on Investment
According to Weber, the return on investment that Steamboat Springs has realized with its FP5 has been extremely good. “It’s well worth the investment,” he says. “The machine has been great throughout the years, with very little expense in down repairs.”
Looking to the future, Weber says the new FP5s coming out of Bergkamp have features and options that interest the city. “When we get there, we likely will purchase another,” he adds. “In the meantime, we’ll always have maintenance time and costs. But this is just a great machine. Very much worth the money.”