PHOENIX - Arizona Department of Transportation crews are going full speed ahead on their work on the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway expansion.
It is the largest single highway project ever for the department and they are now one year into construction.
So far, ADOT said they have work underway in nearly every portion of the 22-miles of road work.
In a press release, the department writes that "crews have installed 8 miles of drainage pipe, moved 3.6 million cubic yards of dirt and used 2,900 tons of rebar manufactured from recycled steel."
The goal is to have the construction completed by late 2019, so they are expanding their workload, which includes controlled rock blasting.
ADOT is working with Aimone-Martin Associates. They are a company that helps monitor the explosion process and ensure it is safe for workers, as well as nearby homes.
ABC15 got to tag along with Dr. Cathy Aimone-Martin as she navigated through the tedious steps.
"The drilling and blasting process is fairly complicated," Dr. Aimone-Martin explained.
She was able to push the button to set-off the explosion because it was her birthday.
"It is a tradition on this job," Dr. Aimone-Martin laughed. "Whosever birthday it is gets to be... the 'blaster' in charge."
Her years of experience put her in the driver's seat of setting up where each explosive goes and when it goes off.
"I started in 1978 and we were working for the U.S. Bureau of Mines on coal-mining blasting research while I was a graduate student," Dr. Aimone-Martin recalled.
Her company goes around the country to ensure jobs like ADOT's South Mountain Freeway have blasting and vibration consultants on hand.
Dr. Aimone-Martin walked us through the process and said that crews first drill holes at a specific elevation.
"Twelve- to 15-feet deep holes in a pattern and then the blasters arrive the next day and start loading the explosives," Dr. Aimone-Martin said.
From there, she said that crews hook everything up, while they ensure people are guarding the site. Traffic control is also important to ensure cars and pedestrians are not in the pathway.
About a half hour before, a safety meeting is held before two sirens count down to the blast.
Then, "'Fire in the hole!' and the detonation will take place," Dr. Aimone-Martin explained.
There have been roughly 60 blasts so far in this project.
Dr. Aimone-Martin said they will most likely complete over 100 blasts by the time the project is done.
ADOT would like you stay informed on the restrictions and closures that will be taking place as they work to complete the freeway. For the latest on construction or to sign up for email updates, click here.