Nothing beats a new, smooth finish on a just-completed sidewalk, and the Pennsylvania State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) is working on an innovation that will enhance the quality of concrete finishing across Pennsylvania.
The STIC's Construction and Materials Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Leader, Harold Hill, and the Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association's (PACA) Director of Technical Services, James Casilio, are leading the effort to update PennDOT specifications to include a requirement for certification for concrete finishers.
Hill, who is assistant district executive for construction in PennDOT's District 4 in northeastern Pennsylvania, became aware of an issue with sidewalk finishing work when a local project sponsor noted that newly finished concrete sidewalks were losing their top finish prematurely.
This issue is not confined to Pennsylvania. Maryland's Highway Administration has done research on the issue, and the Delaware Department of Transportation has added certification requirements to its project specifications.
Using the collaborative power of the STIC, PennDOT and PACA are working together to introduce new certification courses for concrete finishers with an eye on adopting the requirement as part of PennDOT specifications by the end of 2021. This certification course, which includes classroom and hands-on training, aims to eliminate mistakes in concrete finishing that can result in costly repairs or reconstruction.
"So far, we conducted certification courses in six engineering districts in Pennsylvania," Hill said. "Throughout the next several months, we will go to the central and western portions of the state."
The full-day course features three to four hours of classroom instruction with a test and then two to three hours of hands-on practical concrete finishing work. The courses were developed by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and taught in Pennsylvania by the members and staff of PACA.
An additional session was held to gather local government feedback in February 2020. Local governments recommended potential changes to municipal specifications and that this training should be made available through PennDOT's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP).
"The goal of the course and the emphasis is field practices to reduce the occurrence of scaling," Casilio noted. He added that the issue seems to show up more on sidewalk work rather than on concrete pavements or bridge decks. "By focusing on what goes into quality concrete flatwork, this course will lead to longer lifespan, among other things," he said.
Hill said the effort includes outreach to contractors and unions to let them know about the courses.
"Ultimately, we are telling them by the end of 2021, they will be required to be certified," Hill said. "We are giving them a timeframe to get their people certified. It will be a life-time certification."