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North Bass Island Airport

Mid-Lake Erie job site puts Gerken to the test.

North Bass Island Project

When North Bass Island’s 1,800-foot airstrip needed repaving in 2019, Gerken proved up to the project’s unique logistical challenges.

Lake Erie’s North Bass Island lies midway between Port Clinton, Ohio, and Kingsport, Ontario. A popular summertime getaway, most of the 688-acre island remains undeveloped and preserved as North Bass Island State Park. Although accessed primarily by private boat or ferry service, the island has a small airport. And when its 1,800-foot airstrip needed repaving in 2019, the project presented unique logistical challenges. But Gerken was up to the task.

“We were interested in the job because we knew it would be a great job to put on our resume if we could accomplish it,” said Kyle Borstelman, Area Manager for Gerken Paving, Inc. So Gerken and the primary job contractor, Tenmile Creek Excavating, began working out the project’s details.

Transporting mix and equipment would involve a lengthy drive and ferry ride to the job site and be further complicated by weight limitations on the island’s deteriorating dock and roads. Before Gerken could begin its work, the island required costly dock improvements (performed by Geo Gradel Co.) and the creation of temporary roadways.

With those obstacles addressed, the Gerken team could focus on how to transport asphalt mix to the job without sacrificing product quality. The project would require approximately 3,600 tons of asphalt from Gerken’s Parkertown plant. Hauling the hot mix required an hour-long drive from the plant to the port and another hour on the ferry. With so much time between production and delivery, there was concern about temperature loss in the mix.

But asphalt mix was just one of many transportation challenges. Gerken would need to get job crews, pavers, rollers, and trucks to and from the island daily.

“We wanted our equipment off the island at the end of each day,” recalled Borstelman. “We didn’t want our equipment stuck out there in the event of bad weather.”

Needing 16 haul-truck loads for each day’s paving, Gerken initially hired two ferries per day from Miller Ferry. Each ferry could carry four trucks per trip, with 80 tons of asphalt, and make eight daily trips. Drivers in each four-truck group needed to travel as a convoy to reach the ferry together.

Gerken arranged the schedule so the two ferries passed at the halfway point on the lake, with four full trucks heading to the job site and four empty trucks returning to the plant.

Despite initial concerns about temperature loss, crews were happy to discover just a 15-degree drop from plant to paver, which adjusting the production temperature resolved.

To keep on schedule, the work crew on the island had to manage the sequence of four trucks per hour to allow drivers to arrive back at the dock in time for the next ferry. Each day’s first and last two ferries carried the crew and heavy equipment.

The National Center for Asphalt Technology awarded Gerken its Ray Brown National Airport Paving Award for the project, which exemplifies Gerken’s unique ability to respond to any challenge.

“We were thrilled we were able to succeed on this job,” Borstelman said. “There were a lot of moving parts that had to go just right for the job to be successful, but everyone on the project worked really well together.”

North Bass Island Project
North Bass Island Project
North Bass Island Project