Saturday, June 22, 2013

Street Repair

We moved into our house twenty-four years ago. This Spring at last the roads are being repaired. Today came the first stage. They scraped off about two inches of blacktop using trailer trucks and one awesome machine.

This process—at least in our case—took four passes. In each of them, the machine scoured about one quarter of the street’s surface, moving two very long blocks and then, going in reverse, returning again to the starting point. The pictures I show were taken sequentially as the big machine approached and then passed our house on the third pass. The truck carrying away the scraped surface goes ahead of the scraper; the scraper feeds its waste to the truck by means of a mobile conveyor belt. A close look at the first picture shows the stream issuing from the conveyor.

There is a good deal more to this process. The scraper is accompanied by a tank car carrying water—the water used to cool the process on the truck. The scraper therefore needs a deep drink of expensive water (the men told me it costs them $4 per gallon) to keep from overheating. After the scraping, the street is carefully swept with another machine—which also empties itself periodically into a truck. Later yet will come replacement of defective curbing. And finally the paving. That is still ahead.

Witnessing such work brings home to us what the real world, the physical world, is all about. There are no digital apps for repaving a street. But the digital is still present. While waiting for an empty transport, the scraper operators sat down on the grass to take a rest—and each one immediately began communing with his own smartphone.

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