New rumble strip machine at work between Lovell and Cowley

By David Peck

Rumble strips installed along highways all over America have prevented many a sleepy driver from drifting off the road, and now the life-saving road enhancement can be performed by a local company.

S&L Industrial of Cowley, which offers a variety of road project services including traffic control, guardrail installation, bridge coating, sign manufacturing and installation, striping and delineator post installation, has purchased a shiny new rumble strip machine from MRL Equipment Co. of Billings.

The new machine made its debut Tuesday on a project to install rumble strips between Lovell and Cowley. Work continued Wednesday.

According to salesman Kent Klein, who was on the job Tuesday with other MRL personnel to train S&L employees, MRL has manufactured striping and other specialty equipment for many years, and rumble strip machines are part of their equipment line.

The rumble strip machine is a two-part device, a truck supplying power and direction to the actual cutting machine behind, which contains a milling head that can be programmed to cut a variety of patterns and styles, depending on the application, MRL’s DJ Slade said. For instance, a road with lots of bicycle traffic would be cut in a different style than a traditional highway, Slade said.

MRL’s David Gonitzke said rumble strips have cut traffic
fatalities by a huge percentage in some states.

In the case of this week’s project, Klein noted that rumble strips in Wyoming are cut to state specifications.

For S&L owner David Rael, the rumble strip machine is an exciting opportunity.

“We’ve been in the striping business for quite some time,” he said. “I understand that Wyoming is going more toward highway maintenance versus new roads.”

Rael said S&L’s rumble strip machine will be the only machine based in Wyoming, adding, “Pavement maintenance is definitely a bright spot in the future for all of the hot plants, especially in Wyoming. This machine goes hand in hand with pavement maintenance.”

Slade added that having a rumble strip machine in the state allows smaller jobs to be let since transportation won’t be as big an issue. He said more and more states are also installing centerline rumble strips, with the federal government phasing in requirements.

The project

There was enthusiasm in the air Tuesday as the project began to install a rumble strip on the highway from just west of the community center to Cowley along the recently reconstructed Sage Creek Section of U.S. Highway 310.

The project began shortly after 9 a.m. and by noon had already passed the Oasis Junction. There were few delays since S&L has its own mobile traffic control operation to follow the rumble strip project, noted Wyoming Dept. of Transportation resident engineer Mike Miller.

Once the Lovell to Cowley section was completed, the project was to continue south of Lovell from the Lovell Lakes area to the Georgia-Pacific turnoff.

“We’ve been looking at this for three or four years,” Rael said. “We finally made the financial commitment last year and the equipment arrived right after Christmas.”

It took some careful study before S&L decided to move forward with the purchase of the machine, Rael said, adding, “It’s not something we just decided to buy. It’s a major financial commitment.”

This week’s project is being done at no cost to the state in order for S&L employees to get to know the equipment and how it operates, Rael said, adding, “It’s a training ground.”

He noted that S&L has been operating since 1986 – 35 years – and has between 250 and 300 employees during construction season and 32 year-around full-time employees.

“We’re really excited for this new adventure,” co-owner Jennie Rael said. “Thirty-five years is a long time. It’s exciting for us because everybody in the company is excited, too.”