WALKER -- Operating the modern hydraulic articulated blade on a road motor grader takes a lot more skill than moving a pin one notch over to shift the blade on a garden or older farm tractor.
Four Cass County and three Wadena County highway department employees spent two days last week at a University of Minnesota course in Walker to improve their road maintenance and building skills.
The course, funded by a federal technical assistance program and local money, focused on ways to run a road grader blade more effectively to improve gravel road surfaces.
Bruce Higgins, a retired county highway department employee from Flint, Mich., contracts with the University of Minnesota and universities in neighboring states to instruct the course.
This road grader blade features carbide roller tips that swivel to roll coarse gravel and silt binder together better than flat or fixed tooth blades.
Local highway workers spent one day in classroom instruction before practicing what they learned behind the controls Friday at a gravel pit north of Walker and on County State Aid Highway 61.
They used a grader based at the Hackensack garage equipped with a blade that has roller carbide teeth, designed to swivel just enough to roll the dusty binder and coarser gravel in road material together as the grader rolls across roads, said Cass maintenance supervisor Dennis Black.
It spreads and packs loose gravel better over glazed areas on a road and removes washboards, he said.
Blade operation school was offered for Cass drivers in Pillager about 15 years ago. Since then, Black said more experienced Cass grader operators have trained newer employees.
Cass County Highway department employees Butch Oliver (left) of Walker, Mike Bolin of Hackensack and Don Welk (right) of Remer listened to Bruce Higgins (second from right) give instructions about road building during the road grader blade operation school. (Photos by Monica Lundquist)
Now, the county expects the newly trained men to become teachers to those hired in future years, he said.
Higgins showed his students Friday how to rotate the blade beneath the grader, tilting it front to back and ends up and down, to create a gradual crown on gravel roads, so water will run to the sides.
He also showed in the road building segment how the blade can be rotated outside the front wheels and tipped nearly perpendicular to the ground. Then, the corner can be used to cut a ditch as the blade feathers road material out to the back-slope side.
Don Welk, Remer district grader operator, practiced cutting ditches and building a road through the gravel pit.
Cass employees who attended the course, besides Welk, included Mike Bolin, Hackensack district; Rick Edgeton, Pine River district; and Butch Oliver, Walker, sign technician and safety instructor.
The course is available to townships, as well as counties, through the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, 200 Transportation and Safety Building, 511 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, MN, 55455-0375. Phone: (612) 626-1077. Web site: www.cts.umn.edu. E-mail: CTS@tc.umn.edu.
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