Conveyor belt whisks concrete above C-470 traffic lanes, building quicker, smoother, safer highway

Since a conveyor belt was installed over the eastbound lanes of C-470 two months ago, as part of an ongoing expansion project, about 150,000 square yards of concrete have been moved over traffic, dropped into trucks and fed to a giant paving machine constructing new highway.

And whereas conveyor belts have been used for more than a century in American industry, the busy belt over C-470 is the first of its kind in the state, according to Colorado Department of Transportation officials.

“It’s about half of the paving for the complete project,” said Jiovanna  Toppi, a project engineer with CDOT, of the concrete used so far. “It’s been in the center median, using the conveyor.”

To better visualize how much area 150,000 square yards of concrete covers, CDOT officials say it’s comparable to 23 football fields; 119,048 yoga mats; 12,000,000 dollar bills; or 13,363,364 iPhones.

Prior to the conveyor, trucks carrying cement would have crossed traffic lanes to deliver loads to the paving machine, slowing down, or sometimes stopping, traffic while heightening the potential for accidents.

Now concrete zips over public traffic lanes and is deposited to an isolated center lane where only construction work is humming.

“Since you don’t have trucks going in and out of the work zones, it helps traffic flow in both the east- and westbound lanes,” Toppi said. “It is safer.”

The 85-foot-long and 16-foot-wide conveyor belt, which rises 18 feet above the highway, is a crucial part of CDOT’s C-470 Express Lanes project. The conveyor belt also utilizes a 4-foot guardrail on each side as part of a safety measure.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

CDOT is using a concrete conveyor for first time that ferries concrete over active traffic lanes and drops it into trucks at the construction zone at the corner of C-470 and Lucent Boulevard on Dec. 15, 2018.

The $276 million project will expand a 12.5-mile stretch of highway, between I-25 and Wadsworth Boulevard. On westbound C-470, crews are installing two additional express lanes from I-25 to Colorado Boulevard and one additional express lane from Colorado Boulevard to Wadsworth. In the eastbound lanes, one additional express lane, between I-25 and Wadsworth, is being installed.

Free-flowing public traffic and less-restricted construction traffic also help to cut down on emissions and fuel consumption, CDOT officials said. At the completion of the project, in summer 2019, the conveyor system will have eliminated 6,000 truckloads of concrete from entering and exiting the median. It’s speeding up the project.

The conveyor helps get concrete to the paving machine quicker, which in turn will make a superior highway, Toppi said.

“The pavement quality has increased,” she said. “We’re able to place the concrete soon after it’s dispatched, without any delay, for a smoother final product. It’s going to be a better, smoother ride for our traveling public.”

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