Continental Mill and Fill for Pikes Peak Race
Mill and overlay readies roadway for race to Pikes Peak summit
Patches of snow clung to rock debris alongside the Pikes Peak Highway as a Cat® PM822 cold planer’s conveyor threw a steady stream of milled asphalt into a haul truck’s bed near the Colorado mountain’s 14,000-foot summit. When the truck bed was fully loaded, another truck took its place and the cold planer kept milling asphalt for patch work in preparation for the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
“We’re trying to get this road as smooth as possible,” said Chris Neeley, co-owner and program manager for Continental Milling Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado. “That’s very important with the high speed of the vehicles during the race, and for the tourists that travel up and down this road every day.”
Working as a subcontractor for the Kiewit Corporation on the mill and overlay project, the Continental Milling crew was responsible for milling patches up to 700 feet long on the winding, two-lane highway known for its switchback turns and scenic vistas.
Pikes Peak Highway features some very steep grades, both cross slope and running slope. “We have some areas that are exceeding 12 percent on a running slope with a cross slope close to 8 percent on some of the switchback turns,” Neeley said.
The cold planer’s optional grade control provided the precision performance necessary to successfully mill the site’s steep grades. Continental Milling’s work ranged from edge milling to full depth 2-inch cuts. Some of the patches were half-width, but the majority were the full-width of the roadway.
“There are high spots and low spots, so there are areas where we’re cutting two inches and others where we’re cutting nothing,” said Raymond Trout, operations manager.
With the hill climb just three weeks after the mill and overlay, work was completed on a tight schedule. The Continental Milling crew had to mill approximately 4,000 square yards of material in just two and one-half days, with all work done at 13,380 feet and higher. “We had to work around traffic, and Kiewit was required to pave right behind us as we opened up the patches,” Neeley said. “It was a challenge.”
A Cat PM822 cold planer with a horsepower rating of 755 was used on the job. “It has more horsepower and we needed that additional help,” Neeley said. “We’re working at 14,000 feet near the summit. It takes incredible power to push an 80,000-pound machine up this mountain. We worked uphill, which is a little bit outside the norm for us, and the machine did great.
“It performed above and beyond what our initial thoughts were with horsepower loss at that elevation,” Neeley continued. “We needed to be efficient, and we needed to be productive. The PM822 enabled us to do both.”
Work began at Mile 18 of the 19-mile roadway, with the last patch completed where the asphalt ends at the summit. Transporting the equipment to the jobsite proved to be the greatest challenge. Tracking the cold planer up and down the mountain roadway took 22 hours. A lowboy trailer transporting the machine made it to Mile 7, elevation approximately 9,000 feet, but was unable to negotiate the switchback turns beyond that point. The PM822 tracked the remaining 11 miles to reach the jobsite.
The Pikes Peak Highway mill and overlay is the highest profile job so far for Continental Milling Inc. Neeley, his wife President Jill Neeley, and Marc Sprague founded the company three years ago. Sales for the eight-person firm have grown every year, with the goal of $1 million this year.
But this job was done for the pride of working on a national treasure, and the experience of milling at high altitude. “I wanted to do this job. Everybody knows Pikes Peak,” Neeley said. “It’s America’s mountain.”