Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Road Eater

I'm at my desk in the bay window of 820 watching events unfold for the big day. A tow truck, busy as a beaver, is towing cars still parked on the street. (I hate to the think of the expense of getting the cars out of hawk.)

To the left towards 8th Avenue, a menacing dump truck waits, beyond him a machine that eats asphalt and prepares it to be laid down fresh. (I read an article on this years ago, and to re-prepare the asphalt, they use something similar to dish detergent on the old asphalt.)

Here's the tow truck again, its driver jotting down notes before he hauls away a sporty, silvery SUV car. Far down the street a man had a metal detector sweeping the street for metal secrets.

Now to the left, the dump truck slowly makes its way down the street, fed by a conveyor belt spewing loose black asphalt. He's going maybe 3 miles an hour. And behind him a machine with a label, Fleet Milling, a ROADTEC device is eating the asphalt. Men track behind them to inspect the three inch trough that the ROADTEC eats up.

Two men talk as ROADTEC approaches a manhole cover. One man gives a hand signal, clenching his fist, and the ROADTEC stops, lifts, slowly moves, and at the man's fist clench, the hungry ROADTEC lowers into the asphalt again to continue his consumption. Now that ROADTEC past 820, I see that he's a tripod with a single belted track on the back of his machine.

Finally, what I expected in this project is the smell of asphalt pouring through my window. I'm not thrilled, but how can the smell not be there?

Curiously, the sporty, silver SUV remains parked on the street in front of 820. People continue to walk the streets. Svelte Asian business women stroll down the sidewalk. An Hispanic woman walks the other way. And now a man sprints to the sporty, silver SUV, enters, starts it, and drives off - just in time.

The sound of a jack hammer begins rattling in it's rapid, high-pitched metallic bursts.

It's a big day for 42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. A big day.

A little backhoe drives down the trough cleanup up for ROADTEC. He scoops loose material and focuses on the manhole cover that the ROADTEc spared. A man follows behind with a shovel as he does even finer cleanup. The backhoe spreads out the loose material on the road for later consumption by ROADTEC.

I see my Asian neighbors in the soft morning sunlight putting trash away and now the man of the house walks down the street. A young Hispanic woman walks past the backhoe on his second sweep, stopping again at the manhole cover and taking a second bucket full of material to spread on the street for ROADTEC.

The street sweeper wakes and moves now. A couple of men with shovels scrape loose material from the edge of the sidewalk. The jack hammering quiets and restarts. A generator hums in the background. The workers talk to each other with brief yells, insistent hand motions, and expressions.

Of course the typical New York competitiveness emerges when one asks the other, 'This project too slow for you? Not keeping up, huh?' The man works again, a little faster, but mostly immune to the verbal banter.

Time for me to go outside and watch the process repeat itself during this big day for 820.

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