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Plote Construction Inc. – O’Hare International Airport Runway Addition Project

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For many years, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was the world’s busiest airport until Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta took the title. Now, O’Hare wants to regain that status, and Plote Construction Inc. is helping as it works on a portion of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP).

The company is a subcontractor for Turner Construction Co., Acura Construction and Lindahl. Its portion of the project is the paving of a 7,500-foot by 150-foot runway, a 75-foot parallel taxiway, and connecting taxiway.  “They’ll be able to do multiple landings and takeoffs at the same time,” Plote Construction President Dan Plote says.

Plote Construction is currently paving the runway and adjacent taxiway that will be used by cargo planes, Senior Project Manager Mark Bare says. “That will be open to traffic next October,” he says, adding that it will allow planes “to get more capacity against the wind.”


Beneficial Methods

Plote Construction has extensive experience with soil, asphalt and concrete work, but the company is using some new methods for the runway. Asphalt Superintendent Steve Davis says the company is using a special “green” asphalt that is a combination of three separate mixes, as well as recycled shingles. 

It also is using a string-less paving system instead of a conventional string line, Bare says. Although the process has had a sharp learning curve, “It’s been very beneficial,” he asserts.

By using a string-less system, Plote Construction has a shorter set-up time. It also gets more accuracy through the use of a Caterpillar (Cat) AP1055E model paver with a GPS system from Topcon Positioning Systems Inc. supplied by Patten Cat. “It puts it within a quarter inch, either way of the grade,” Davis says.

Plote Construction is utilizing Cat’s 272C skid steer loader to spread out the runway’s filter fabric. By attaching a Burchland Manufacturing material roller to the skid steer loader, the company lays out 15-foot rolls. “We just take big sections and do each day-by-day,” Davis says. “It’s just a lot faster.” 

A Tight Structure 

Working at O’Hare has not been without its challenges, Dan Plote admits. Because of the uniqueness of the project, “It’s extremely structured,” he says. “The city of Chicago and the OMP [are] extremely methodical about what the project is.

“The aviation department brings a highlighted level of scrutiny, so preplanning as well as management is extremely important,” he says. “The bar’s higher, [so] you’ve got to jump higher.”

Additionally, Plote Construction has coped with a wet summer on this project, Davis explains. “It’s rained almost every day that we’ve paved out here,” he says, noting that the team has nonetheless managed to stay on schedule. “We’ve done 3,700 feet so far, so we’re almost halfway [done].”

A Well-Rounded Firm

Based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Plote Construction started operations in 1964. Founders Ray and Jan Plote started the company as an excavation firm, Asphalt Operations Manager Dick Lyons says.

“As the company continued to grow, the Plote family expanded to buying a concrete company, and then an asphalt company to become more well-rounded,” he explains. “In the same time period, we became a large recycle company, using the removal material from the jobs back into our projects.”

Today, as Plote Construction celebrates its 50th anniversary, “Our company is diversified,” Lyons says, noting that the company’s success is due to its ability to be mobile. 

“We pave in the Chicagoland area and surrounding areas to … as far as Wisconsin with mobile plants.”

Dan Plote sees a strong future ahead for Plote Construction. “There will be some other considerations for acquisitions for us to help us continue to grow in Northern Illinois and [for] another 50 years,” he says, noting that more Plote family members will join the company. “My children are in college and studying in the field to help me out shortly.” 

Providing the Best

Plote Construction has a strong relationship with Patten Cat, which provided the pavers, rollers and skid steer loader for the O’Hare project and is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. “We’ve done all our new purchases through [them],” Dan Plote says. “They’ve done a great job over the years, servicing the account, whether it’s parts and service or selling us new stuff when we’re in a pinch.”

Patten Cat Paving Specialist Jamie Wilson adds that the contractor has particularly benefited from the AP1055E paver. “It’s one of the heaviest, most reliable machines in the industry today,” he states. “We feel [it’s] the best machine out there.”

Wilson notes that the paver lays a superior mat of asphalt with the help of the GPS. “The GPS makes sure that those 25-foot strips are exactly straight and that they’re to grade,” he says.

Additionally, “It’s been a pleasure working with Plote Construction for their entire 50 years of business,” says Garrett Patten, president of Patten Cat. “The relationship between us has grown and will continue to grow through multiple generations.  As Plote keeps taking on unique and challenging projects such as the O’Hare Runway Addition, we’re proud to be the partner that will always be there to provide them with the best products, services and technology in the industry.  Congratulations on 50 years – here’s to 50 more!” 

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