Autoduel QuarterlyVolume 10Issue 3

Roadwork: 2042

Craig Sheeley
The highways and paved roadways of the continental U.S. and the Free Oil States consist of thousands of miles of pavement, billions of cubic yards of concrete, blacktop and gravel, and millions of man-hours of work. Begun over a century ago, the interstate system links every state of the union, and secondary roads further link every part of the country with ribbons of concrete. There are very few parts of North America that can't be reached by car.

Highways have two natural enemies: Nature and Man. The very existence of Earth's life-giving environment threatens roadways - water, the universal solvent and basis of life as we know it, is the most potent tool for destruction. It permeates the very ground that roadways sit on, undermining them in warm weather and freezing beneath them in cold. Wind, rain, sun and temperature combine forces to break down and destroy mad just as they break down natural rock formations. The living earth heaves and sags, rending rigid road surfaces with its contortions.

As if this unrelenting attack weren't enough, Man aids and abets the process of roadway destruction by running heavy vehicles across it at high speed. The average 18-wheeler runs more than 80,000 lbs. of pressure across the road at more than 60 mph, borne on two 18-24" wide ribbons of rubber. (Believe it or not, most rigs have a higher ground pressure than a tank! 10+ lbs. per square inch for a truck, as opposed to 7 or 8 lbs. psi for a tank. So why does a tank tear up roads more readily? Few trucks weigh 50+ tons and have metal treads instead of tires.) And almost since the dawn of the interstates. the bulk of cargo shipping in the continental U.S. has been conducted by truck, a situation that holds true today (more so than ever before, due to the difficulty of maintaining a transcontinental railroad industry, rather than to artificial market pressure applied by oil companies greedy to exploit their product, as was true in the 20th century). With the addition of heavier road traffic in more prosperous times, roads neglected for a decade or more are increasingly in need of repair, and federal, state and local governments are responding by allocating more attention to their road nets.

Part of this attention is purely precautionary. The federal government built the interstates in order to move troops freely from one part of the country to another; this consideration is more vitally important to the federal forces than ever. State and local governments merely look to the added economic boost of having good roads; business goes where the truckers go, and truckers generally go where their maintenance costs are lower. Since replacement tires make up over 33% of trucking maintenance costs, roads that don't shred tires are a definite attraction to The trucking industry.

"Your Tax dollars at work"

Every motorist knows and dreads the tell-tale signs of Road Construction In Progress. Often, the first hint is a tremendous cloud of dust and smoke on the horizon. Since most roadwork is done in the middle of summer, the machines and work raise an obscuring haze to imperil traffic and annoy passersby. Surprisingly, the switch to clean fuel cells from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines has not lessened this phenomenon; the most common explanation for this holds that every road crew has a hidden smog machine lurking at the center of the cloud. After all, it has to come from somewhere, doesn't it?

Road crews have long been adept at annoying motorists. They move onto a road, tear it up worse than it was before, run heavy vehicles around on it during the prime traveling hours (to make certain that all traffic going through is slowed, stopped or otherwise impeded), always make certain to run their heavy machinery over the road surface that's already been completed (thereby ruining it and setting it up for future repair). They cover roads with sticky tar which seems to do a better job of sticking to and eating through automobile paint than it does helping road resurfacing, then they coat the surface with grit and rocks (which also love to stick to cars, and shatter windshields besides). Finally they lay asphalt or something even more deadly, guaranteeing that it will pit, pot-hole, buckle, shred, and/or crumble within a few years, reducing the road to a more pitiable state than it was before the repairs began.

Facts and Figures

The average interstate highway is approximately 10 yards wide, with 2-3 yard shoulders. This makes for a two-lane road, so multiply the following costs appropriately when calculating for four or more lanes. Fifty years ago, one mile of two-lane interstate, done in concrete, cost just over $1 million. With the addition of security costs, this figure is approximately $1,250,000 per mile today. Building time: 1 month per mile. Construction is faster during summer months, when high temperatures and a lack of precipitation facilitate laying concrete.

Making a road out of asphalt used to be cheaper, since asphalt doesn't take as long to set as concrete and can be rolled out instead of carefully mixed and poured. But 50 years ago, petroleum was plentiful, and classic asphalt requires a lot of petroleum and petroleum byproducts - the "tack coat," that undercoating of petrol tar and diesel that does so well at eating through paint jobs and plastic armor, and requires even more toxic diesel solvents to remove, is totally derived from petroleum. With the present scarcity of petroleum, the price of asphalt road covering has risen from around $200,000 per mile to almost $500,000 per mile. The building time is shorter; under ideal conditions, a mile of asphalt resurfacing (2 to 2 1/2" thick) can be laid in one week. Making a full asphalt road rather than layering over concrete costs about $750,000 and takes 2 weeks per mile.

Alternative surfaces are available, but they aren't very cornpetitive. Some small roads are made of rock-ceramics, held together by epoxy resins; others are composed of compressed organic material (i.e., wood). The former is too expensive (more than $5 million per mile) and the latter doesn't last for more than a year under heavy traffic.

Under Your Tires

Highways generally consist of four to six layers, with sub-layers of gravel and crushed rock overlaid by 6 inches of concrete or asphalt. (The question has been raised: If we build with better materials than the ancient Romans, why are their roads still around? The answer lies in the relative expense of the roads - the ancient Romans built using six to eight layers of materials, allowing for better lifespan than modern roads. Also, they didn't abuse the roads with overloaded trucks.) Concrete is still the best road material for durability and cost-effectiveness. The average interstate highway was calculated to have a 12 to 15 year lifespan, with proper maintenance and a mid-life asphalt resurfacing. Luckily, the lack of maintenance during the lawless years was more than compensated for by the lack of heavy traffic, thereby proving anew that man is more of a danger to his works than nature. When traffic started back up, most of it rolled on roads built at the turn of the century. The upshot of this is the vast majority of the roads in the nation are still serviceable, but decaying rapidly. Bridges, in particular, are in the worst state; many a trucker takes his life (and rig, and cargo) into his hands when crossing an unreliable bridge.

Men at Work

The roads have to be repaired. Money is being made available by private concerns and public agencies to repair them. The companies that do the actual work of repairing and building new roads are generally private contractors, operating on a fixed budget and time schedule - contracts for road-work are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and the amount of time and money allotted for the work are fixed in the contract. If the contractor goes over on time, there is usually no more money for the work actually being done, and excess funds come out of the contractor's own pocket. Indeed, some contracts call for financial penalties if the work isn't done on time.

The gross effect of this lack of contract leniency is that the road-work company is usually in a hurry. since almost no project runs completely on schedule. This can often result in sub-standard work, work-related accidents and the general air of surliness exhibited by most road-workers - "Hey, Mac, they gotta job t' do, an' they don't need your lip, okay? Just holdjer horses; that bulldozer'll be offa th' road in a few hours."

Because of this rushed atmosphere, road-workers are a harried lot, and some do tend to take their frustrations out on horn-honking motorists. This lack of courtesy on both sides often devolves into gunplay. For this reason, road-workers always go armed, and tend to have weapon bunkers dug in at the sides of the roads to rake the approaches to the construction site with cross-fire. In addition. construction vehicles are at least armored - and usually armed - and their mass makes them potent weapons if they get close enough to roll over an offender.

Despite the danger, road-workers are not highly paid, being considered manual labor. They stick together, forming ad-hoc teams at work and play (a habit thousands of years old; the pyramid of Cheeps contains stones marked with labor team symbols), and while their jobs may be dirty, hot and back-breaking, they usually have very steady work, at least during the busy season.

Road-crew members might have any combination of skills from the following: Trucker, Trucker +1, Gunner, Handgunner and Mechanic. The most skilled crewmen usually operate the heavy equipment, while the junior workers are assigned a shovel or sledgehammer. Workers with Trucker +1 or Mechanic +1 are usually promoted to foreman.

Some states use "chain gangs" of state prisoners to do manual labor on the roads. Visitors to the southern states and Texas can see this policy in action during the summer and fall months. Professional road-workers resent chain gang intrusion into their field, and there have been several reported cases of commercial work gangs attacking chain gangs.

Security

One of the biggest dangers of working on road repair is that the job exposes men and equipment to hostile action for extended periods of time - when resurfacing a 10-mile section of road can take up to two weeks, with men on station for 12 or more hours at a time, the safety of men and material is of utmost importance. In addition, once the equipment is on-site, it is economically unfeasible to move it to permanent garages each night. Since this machinery usually runs to a total cost of over a million dollars, guarding it from theft and damage is a high priority.

A good rule of thumb for security is two guards and one heavy weapon for every ten men and for every vehicle working on the site. Materials transports such as dump trucks and so on are not considered to be part of this security requirement, since they are usually big, armed, and capable of taking care of themselves - anyone who's ever tried to muscle aside a dump truck will appreciate that. Alternately, for big jobs, security personnel will number ten men and five heavy weapons per mile of perimeter. Typical professional security guards have driver, gunner and handgunner at base level.

The first order of business is to set up a defensive perimeter. Since the site is fairly stable - most road projects don't cover that much of an area, and the area doesn't change very swiftly - security forces can define the perimeter with fences, alarms, sensors and other measures (up to and including land-mines). Usually these perimeters are very well labeled, since security is likely to shoot first and ask questions later (if then), and needless shooting wastes ammo and raises the cost of the operation.

The next step is to establish a central base of operations and individual weapons posts. Usually, the central base is a van trailer for communications and control, and the weapons posts are fox-holes or other fortifications with tripod-mounted weapons. In open conditions, such as working roads in the Midwest or central states, long-barreled weapons are favored for their longer ranges. And some wealthy companies even set up revetments with 360 degree mounted cannon and anti-tank weapons! These weapons posts are placed so as to provide cross-fire across the roadway and to provide support fire in case of attacks away from the roadway. It is standard procedure to man all weapons posts at all times . . . Actually, it's pretty easy duty. The weapons are supposed to be obvious deterrents, and guards on bunker duty get to lounge around the guns and look tough.

Temporary shelters for vehicles, security and construction alike, are built - prefabs or tents. These shelters are more for shielding the vehicles from nature than from bullets. At the same time, portapotties are set up for the workers and guards. (In some more remote areas, chemical toilets are not available, and latrines must be dug by hand. This is becoming less common, though, as the country re-industrializes.)

Guard houses, one- or two-man structures, are set up at the road ends of the perimeter. These houses resemble slab-sided versions of the quaint border-posts of bygone Europe; in actuality, they are fit-together shells of plastic armor. These are manned by guards with moderately heavy weapons (an HLAW, several grenades and an SMG or Assault rifle/UBGL combo, sometimes a tripod-mounted MG) who are charged with protecting the flagmen.

Finally, the road crew and its vehicles are brought in to begin the work.

Security doesn't end with standing guard in bunkers. Often, a road project will stretch for miles, and security forces will patrol in off-road vehicles, shuttling around the perimeter to make sure nothing untoward happens. Really large projects have a mobile reserve heavy squad based near the command post, using helicopters to fly to trouble spots.

With all the security needed to protect the contractor's investment in equipment and personnel, it's easy to see why the cost of repairing a road is so high, per mile.

"Chain gang" projects are a little different. There, security's main job is making certain that the convicts don't escape their imprisonment; fewer precautions are taken to guard the project from outside attack.

Drive Slowly

Proceeding through an area under construction closely resembles driving through an armed camp. Ample warning of work in progress is provided by signs announcing the fact as you approach the work site (not to mention that cloud of dust and smoke mentioned on p. 6). The guard house and the flagman (the fellow who always stands on the road holding the sign with "Slow" and "Stop" on alternate sides) mark the beginning of the site. Every vehicle passing through is watched carefully by security, which has every intention of firing on anyone making any threatening moves. Speed limits are enforced - rudely. Impatient or imprudent drivers may end up having small "accidents" involving their vehicles, large construction machines and casual sideswipes.

As vehicles move through a resurfacing in progress, they proceed through the following zones in order (or reverse order, depending on which direction they come from): Freshly-stripped road section (each vehicle suffers a DO hazard each phase that it moves; this does not lower handling class, but does force control rolls. On each vehicle's last movement phase for the turn, it suffers a D1 hazard, representing accumulation of handling difficulty on the stripped road), road given the "tack coat" of tar and oil (the road the vehicles proceed on is ostensibly the one not being treated at the time. This doesn't prevent tar splashes from getting on the cars), the actual resurfacing (a large expanse of fresh blacktop, sticky and hot, with the resurfacing machine at the leading edge), and finally new pavement. Keep in mind that construction vehicles may be blocking the avenue of progress at any moment, and that the road section that vehicles are supposed to travel on is marked with traffic cones, painted oil drums, etc.. and is one-lane - one lane for each direction of traffic, if two-lane. And these lanes are narrow .. . Major concrete roads under construction are by-passed by detour lanes, and generally don't present these problems.

When work is suspended because of darkness or weather, the construction machines are usually driven to their temporary shelters and secured. The road under repair is opened to traffic and the guard houses abandoned. Security forces remain on patrol, guarding the site and the machinery, but through traffic is allowed to pass unhindered. Better not stray off the path marked by the orange cones, blinkers or other beacons! Road crews are in the habit of leaving a trap for careless or callous drivers - there's usually an open pit, or a gravel pile, or some other fearsome obstacle waiting for the first person to bulldoze along a line of traffic cones.

Equipment

Small Bulldozer Blade - $3,000, 1,000 lbs., 3 spaces, 10 DP (metal). This bulldozer blade works just like its larger cousin (described in Uncle Albert's Catalog From Hell), except that this blade is capable of being mounted on non-oversized vehicles that have at least four wheels. Note.- No bulldozer blade may be mounted on a vehicle with a racing body or CA frame, as these light frames lack the sturdiness to sustain such a load.

Backhoe - $15.000, 2,000 lbs., 6 spaces, 50 DP This is an articulated digging shovel. It can be used as a weapon, doing Id damage, but only to targets within M" of the hoe, and it can only strike once every 5 turns. This is an earth-moving device, not an effective weapon. Has built-in equivalents of recoil spades.

Sawhorse - $10, 20 lbs., 1/4 space if carried as cargo, 3 DP. for an additional $20 and 3 lbs., it can be outfitted with a battery-powered blinking light.

Traffie Cone - $5, 1 lb., 20 of them can be carried in one cargo space (stacked), DP uncertain but suspected of being infinite (try destroying one). Does not count as a hazard when struck, and is fairly useless for anything except marking traffic detours.

Portable Guard Bunker - $200 plus armor costs, 30 lbs., 2 spaces. This is an en- closed guard post. The top is typically transparent window-plastic, to allow a full field of vision. Slots with sliding armor closures are provided for weapon barrels. Plastic armor can be purchased for the top or each of the four sides at $10 and 5 lbs. per point. Larger shelters are available - add $50 and 10 lbs. For each additional space. Each additional space increases armor cost by $5 and 2 lbs. per point. Maximum size for a portable guard bunker is 5 spaces. No side can carry more than 20 points of armor. A typical road-crew guard bunker is 2 spaces with 15 points of armor ($950, 405 lbs. total), or 3 spaces with 15 points of armor, to allow the guard to use a tripod-mounted weapon ($1,375, 565 lbs.).

Portapotties - $550, 75 lbs., 2 spaces. This is a chemical toilet built into a plastic privacy booth. Portapotties can be armored as a portable guard station.

Road Construction Vehicles

These vehicles are representative examples of construction vehicles encountered on nearly every construction site in the world. The earth-movers (bulldozer, backhoe, grader, scraper and crane) all have earth-mover power plants - they are the same as AFV power plants, but they function as AFV power plants outfitted with heavy-duty transmissions, hauling twice the load but at a cost to Top Speed (Top Speed with these power plants is 50% normal for tracked vehicles and 75% normal for wheeled vehicles).

Construction vehicles are single-purpose vehicles, built as sturdy as possible for long service life in an environment of unrelenting use and abuse. Their manufacture is simple, because complication reduces service life and requires more maintenance - and maintenance is expensive. Remember, the contractor's eye is always on that bottom line, so the less expense a vehicle requires, the more attractive it is to a contractor.

Most construction vehicles have few "extras;" some may have added gadgets, such as long-distance radios, portable coolers or armored beer minifridges (remember, the crews have to provide their own creature comforts). Since these vehicles will rarely be called upon to fight - their weaponry is almost more decorative than anything else - they have little need of autoduelling equipment and accessories.

Dump Truck - Longnose ten-wheeled truck, heavy-duty chassis, off-road suspension, medium truck power plant, 10 off-road solid truck tires, driver, passenger, VMG in universal turret T, fire extinguisher, heavy-duty winch E Metal armor: F5. LA, R4, B3, T4, U3. Dumpster carrier with 5 points of metal armor on all locations but T Dumpster can carry 5,525 lbs. of cargo. Top Speed 100 mph, HC 1; 14,275 lbs., $119,915.

Cement Truck Variant - This is, in Car Wars terms, identical to the dump truck, but has PR tires and hauls 6,000 lbs. of concrete in a revolving hopper.

Bulldozer - 20-space AFV hull, small earth-mover power plant, driver, MG in universal turret T, bulldozer blade F, fire extinguisher, heavy-duty winch B. Metal Armor: F3, LA, R4, B4, ?;?, U3. Top Speed 37.5 mph, HC 5; 9,950 lbs., $68,300.

Backhloe - 20-space armored car hull, small earth-mover power plant, 4 OR PR tires, driver, MG in universal turret T, small bulldozer blade E backhoe B. Metal Armor: F5. L5. R5, B5, T4. U3. Top Speed 55 mph, HC 2; 9,995 Lbs., $73,080.

Grader - 20-space armored car hull, small earth-mover power plant, 4 OR solid tires, driver, MG in universal turret T, small bulldozer blade U, fire extinguisher, winch B. Metal Armor: F5, L4*, R4*, B4, T3, U3. (*indicates 10% sloped armor.) Top Speed 70 mph, HC 2; 7,995 Lbs., $62,660.

Scraper - 35-space armored car hull, medium earth-mover power plant, 6 OR solid tires, driver, MG in universal turret T, fire extinguisher, heavy-duty winch B, hopper Metal Armor: F3, LF3. RF3, LB3, RB3, B3, TF3, TBO, UF5. UB5. Hopper holds up to 11,500 Lbs. of earth. Top Speed 35 mph. HC 2; 22,000 Lbs., $89,800.

Crane - 25-space AFV hull, medium earth-mover power plant, driver, crane (the crane hull is built so that almost the entire hull is a sort of turret, allowing the crane 360-degree traverse), MG in universal turret T, fire extinguisher. Metal Armor: F4, LA, R4, B4, T3, U3. Top Speed 37.5 mph, HC 5; 13,200 Lbs., $103,200.

Asphalt Resurfacer - This special vehicle defies building with Car Wars rules. It is a large (its counter is 1" wide by 2" long) tracked vehicle that moves at a top speed of 5 mph (its normal speed is about U mph). It weighs 14,000 Lbs. and costs $100,000. It has 5 points of metal armor on all facings, and a one-man crew. Its purpose is to scrape old asphalt off a road surface, heat it, mix it with new asphalt and tar, and resurface the road behind it. Its back end is a tremendous hopper full of heated asphalt and tar; if breached, the hopper spills this hellish mixture behind it (or beside it, if breached from the side) like an oil dropper. This spill continues for 120 turns (divided by the number of sides breached). Any vehicle or pedestrian moving through this spill sustains 1d damage and a fire modifier of 1, duration 1 (vehicles take damage to all tires and bottom; each item sustains Id damage), and vehicles suffer a D3 hazard.

Steam Roller - Another special vehicle defying quantification in Car Wars terms, this vehicle consists of two titanic metal rollers and a chassis in between. This chassis contains a small truck power plant, the driver, and an MG in a universal turret. Each facing has 4 points of metal armor, and each of the two rollers has 50 DP (metal). The roller weighs 12,000 Lbs.. has a top speed of 30 mph and HC 3, and costs $65,000. A steam roller can "steamroller" vehicles like a large truck.

Adventure Possibilities

Just Passing Through - While engaged in a running gun battle on the road, the fight passes through an area of roadwork, where the highway is under repair. The road is choked with sawhorse barriers, men-at-work signs, heavy machinery and possibly other traffic. The duellists have to run the gauntlet of the road crew and road security, who will take their own side and fire at any target that presents itself. Security and construction vehicles can be generated by the referee with an eye towards not making it impossible for the combatants to survive.

Defend the Road - Have the PCs act as security, either part-time or full-time, guarding a roadwork area from hostiles - drivers with bad tempers and no brains, hurried truckers trying to speed through and make their deadlines, outlaw gangs looking to loot some machinery, and even rival construction companies out to ruin the timetable for road completion.

Chain-Gang Bang-Bang - A chain gang is being used to prepare a road bed for a new road. Prison guards watch from their vehicles, ready to gun down any would-be escapees - and some always try, using their digging implements to sever the chains (a few good licks from a pick-axe can break off the chains). Play the part of rescuers, hired by a convict's friends to free the unjustly (or justly) imprisoned convict, dating the guns of the guards in an heroic breakout. Or play the guards, hired to waste these human dregs if they try anything funny... and that goes for their friends, too.

Attack the Road - Some duellists don't care who they work for, as long as the money's good. Engage in a bit of mindless (but well-paid) sabotage, either creeping in under cover of darkness to ruin a few bulldozers, or launching a full attack in broad daylight on the contractor's defenses. Either way, it's time to party with road security, and it's guaranteed that this party won't be dull...

Roadwork Mini-Campaign - Take over the job of security for a road project! It's only a resurfacing, but it'll take a year (averaging 41 mile per week), and there are jealous competitors who want to see your employer blow the contract, so they can move in! Security is budgeted for $200,000 per month, or 2.4 million dollars, the lion's share of it to be used in initial outlay for security equipment. Security personnel are paid $1,000 per month, and machines have to be maintained and serviced. The prize? The security service gets to keep any money left over from their budget! But don't succumb to the temptation to go cheap, because the contractor's enemies don't play nice. They try everything from small, infrequent bombing runs with crater bombs to midnight sabotage to frontal attacks by hired crazies, and security can't afford to be asleep at the switch!


Issue 10/3 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index