The heat rises steadily from the rich black layer of material which extrudes from the back of the Terrace Paving paver.
At 140 degrees Celsius the asphalt is soft and workable and the crew uses rakes and shovels to quickly smooth out any bumps and fill any gaps on top.
Meanwhile foreman Ray Garneau walks back and forth along a narrow walkway on the back of the paver as it slowly crawls forward.
Using what looks like a ski pole, Garneau occasionally reaches out and pushes the device into the just-laid asphalt to ensure it is the right depth.
Later, a roller goes over the layer, compacting it into a harder consistency.
“I’ve got three boxes here today,” says Garneau in referring the dump trucks which make the round trip from the Terrace Paving asphalt plant in Thornhill to the job site in the back lot of the just-opened Andrew Sheret plumbing and heating business on Keith Ave./Hwy16 in Terrace.
Depending upon the size of a truck’s box, 13.5 tons of asphalt is tipped into the holding tank of the paver before its forced out onto the ground.
In technical terms the mixture is called either concrete asphalt or asphalt concrete, says Mirko Rutar, the area manager of Terrace Paving.
Either way, asphalt is made up of two key ingredients – crushed rock called aggregate and an oil product. The latter acts as a binding agent for the former.
Oil companies produce different kinds of product for asphalt but generally speaking, for northern climates, a softer oil product is used.
“That’s because of the freeze/thaw cycle,” says Terrace Paving area manager Mirko Rutar. “You want something with more flexibility for the temperature range.”
Oil companies also have other ingredients applicable for the type of surface needed – ones where there’s more traffic, a harder surface is wanted.
Terrace Paving uses basically one type of oil product to help keep its costs down, notes Rutar.
“We’re about 20 hours away from our source of supply,” he adds.
Terrace Paving is a division of a company called YCS Holdings which itself is part of a larger company called Terus Construction Ltd.
The YCS office is in Prince George oversees a network of 11 asphalt plants, including the one in Thornhill and a new one in Kitimat.
In Kitimat YCS is known as Kentron Construction, its operation is called Adventure Paving in Prince Rupert and LB Paving in Smithers.
Crews can be shifted around the region depending upon project needs, said Rutar.
That explains why a major paving job of Hwy16 through Thornhill and into Terrace will be handled by LB Paving.
That project will be done at night and, with the Terrace Paving crew busy enough as it is during the daytime, bringing in a Smithers sister company made perfect sense, said Rutar.
His list of projects this year includes work at Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter reconstruction project in Kitimat, several Terrace municipal projects and paving at one hotel being built in Thornhill and two in Terrace.
“We’ve got a lot on our plate. And last year was our biggest year,” said Rutar.
His 2014 list included 15,000 tonnes of asphalt at the Rio Tinto smelter project and his 2012 project list included a $400,000 contract to pave the intersection of Hwy 37 South and the City of Terrace’s Skeena Industrial Park.
A $1.3 million paving contract was even taken on in 2011 at the new ferry terminal in Klemtu on the mid-coast of the province.
For that project, asphalt of a special oil mixture — so that it could be used at a lower temperature than otherwise normal — was loaded onto a barge and then covered with insulated, fireproof tarps.
“Doing it that way, it’s good for four or five days,” said Rutar.
A small amount was left over and taken back to Kitimat where, even after five days, a portion was used to put a surface on the back lot of the Kentron complex, said Rutar.