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GPS Technology Speeds US 61 Paving for Streb Construction

by: Debra Wood
The Topcon LPS robotic technology allows Streb Construction to pave more accurately and quickly on the U.S. 61 project in Mediapolis, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Kevin Arens, Star Equipment
The Topcon LPS robotic technology allows Streb Construction to pave more accurately and quickly on the U.S. 61 project in Mediapolis, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Kevin Arens, Star Equipment
Construction of 9.5 miles of two additional lanes to U.S. 61 near Mediapolis, Iowa, changing an existing two-lane highway into a four-lane interstate, has progressed faster and more accurately with Streb Construction in Iowa City, Iowa, using equipment with Topcon LPS robotic technology.

“The Topcon Millimeter GPS has helped us in maintaining the accuracy of the subgrade and subbase with our grading equipment very quickly,” said Steve Streb, Co-Owner of the firm. “We’re paving a smooth-riding pavement with the robotic total station.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation awarded the $20.8 million concrete paving project on Memorial Park Road in Burlington to South of 210th Street to Streb Construction in October 2019. Work began in April 2020.

Al Streb formed Streb Construction in 1964, building homes. The company began slip-forming concrete paving in 1984, under the direction of the founder’s son Dave. The company paves subdivisions, parking lots, city streets, interstates, county roads and airports and works along the Interstate 380/Highway 218 corridor from Cedar Falls to Burlington.

The Topcon Advantage
Streb considers innovation and up-to-date equipment valuable in staying competitive and maintaining quality. The company has been a pioneer in stringless paving, taking advantage of the accuracy GPS machine control can bring.

In 2012, Streb Construction retrofitted a 1999 paver with a Topcon paving system from Star Equipment in Des Moines, Iowa. The system allowed for minor adjustments to pavement thickness with a couple of taps on the control screen. Stringless eliminates human error and boosts productivity, Streb says.

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Streb Construction has been purchasing equipment from Star Equipment, since the 1970s, soon after the late Max Bowman and his wife, Beverly, established the dealership.

Star Equipment, a leader in construction technology, has grown to four locations and more than 80 employees. The second generation of family ownership – Bruce Bowman, Brad Bowman and Brett Bowman – continues to lead the company, which prides itself on top-quality service and product expertise and being able to keep contractors running at their peak potential.

“Star has given us good service over the years, and it carries good products,” Streb said. “The folks at Star are always willing to go above and beyond for their customers.”

On this U.S. 61 project, the first Topcon LPS paving for Star Equipment, Streb Construction is using a GOMACO GP3 Four Track Paver with Topcon LPS stringless-paving technology, which uses GT-1001 Robotic Total Stations, and Millimeter GPS systems for guiding the company’s grading equipment. “The Topcon equipment has allowed our crews to grade miles of roadway fast and accurately,” Streb says.

Crews upload an engineered model of the road, and the Topcon equipment guides the paver to deliver the correct alignment and finish slab heights. The robotic total station is lightweight, waterproof, and comes with enhanced security. It also can be paired with a tablet or computer for layout and survey.

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“It tracks the two prisms and independently controls the left and right side of the machine to pave exactly to the road model,” says Alex Geving, Star Equipment’s Construction Technology Sales Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It allows the machine to move more productively and with more accuracy. We’re getting accurate readings from the robot down to a thousandth of an inch, which allows the road to be smoother and last longer.”

The robotic system enables paving with fewer people behind the machine for finishing, Geving explains.

Education Ensures Success
Star Equipment ensures success with its products. When a customer decides to purchase a Topcon LPS robotic system, Geving inquires about what machine the customer wants to add the Topcon equipment to and then talks with the manufacturer of the machine to ensure it has electric controls and can integrate with the system.

Then, Star Equipment works with the customer to educate its crews about the use of the Topcon system. Star Equipment flew Streb employees to California for a training session in setting up and operating of the robotic system. When the customer is first ready to pave, Geving walks the crew members through the first set up until the team is comfortable using the robots. Star then brings the machine to the job site and does several practice runs, without any concrete material. They troubleshoot potential challenges, such as vegetative cover, trees, and traffic.

“We walk customers through the entire process, from purchasing and identifying what system would most benefit them, all of the way up to paving,” Geving says. “As a dealership, we go a step further and practice and pave with the machine with Topcon experts.”

Geving reports the Topcon LPS robotic equipment is easy to use and estimates it takes crews a few days to feel confident and be self-sufficient with its operations. “We make sure the customer has not only a job he can be proud of but also a good experience with the technology,” Geving says.

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Star Equipment also provides service. Several technicians can troubleshoot and make repairs as needed. They are accessible at all times. “All of the guys at Star make it easy to do what I do,” Geving says.

Construction Progress
U.S. 61 remains an active two-lane highway while construction progresses. The logistics of material hauling and placement presented challenges.

Streb has installed a Rexcon high-volume portable batch plant to quickly produce quality concrete, with a fleet of 30 trucks to 40 trucks hauling wet batch concrete, sand and rock aggregate, fly ash, and cement powder.

The project consisted of 212,701 square yards of 10-inch slip-form paving; 9,372 square yards of slip form detour paving; 4,104 square yards of 9-inch slip-form paving; 80,725 square yards of 10-inch slip-form shoulder; 296,565 square yards of granular subbase aggregate; 32,000 tons of granular shoulder; and 5,000 tons of special backfill aggregate shoulder.

Streb praised the teamwork among his company’s personnel, Star Equipment, GOMACO Pavers, and Topcon. The project also required coordination with local and state agencies, material suppliers and subcontractors involved in the project.

“I am proud of how the Streb Construction employees have all stepped up to face the challenges head on,” concludes Streb. “We are paving a very smooth roadway that will last the taxpayers of Iowa for generations.”

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