Dirty Streets Risk Excavation Shutdowns

Jan. 1, 2000
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Cherry Hill’s first urban mass excavation project in Washington, DC, was for the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at Federal Triangle. That project began in 1993, and Cherry Hill was responsible for the excavation and removal of 800,000 yd.3 of dirt. Following on the company’s success with its first project, Cherry Hill was recently awarded the excavation contract for the new Washington, DC Convention Center. At a total cost of $560 million, the 2.3-million-ft.2 facility will surpass the existing DC convention center in size and will be among the largest convention centers in the country. It should host its first meetings in 2003.

This immense facility could provide adequate hangar space for four Boeing 747 jumbo jets at once, reports the owner, the Washington Convention Center Authority. Its upper exhibit hall alone could accommodate two Major League Baseball fields.

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In March 1999, work began in earnest. Clark/Smoot Construction, the construction manager, awarded the excavation contract to Cherry Hill and Goldin Stafford and the foundation contract to Clark Foundations. During the summer of 1999, Cherry Hill and its partner, Goldin Stafford, were busy moving the earth for the 1.3-million-yd.3 excavation for the proposed facility. “Cherry Hill also is responsible for construction of certain footings and heel blocks,” Jim Landis, onsite project superintendent, points out. In August 1999, Cherry Hill was typically utilizing 80 contracted trucks to haul the excavated material each day. At that time, Landis was in charge of about 46 employees. Plans call for excavation depths ranging from 45 ft. at the southern edge to 65 ft. at the northern end. The excavation phase is scheduled to be completed within a 13-month period. Cherry Hill, however, will continue to provide environmental services, including sweeping, throughout the entire construction project.

Cherry Hill Construction Inc., a 31-year-old heavy/highway construction company, leverages dirt to capture business and strengthen the bottom line. On a typical job, Cherry Hill-located in Jessup, MD-will excavate and haul hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt from one project to another where borrow material is needed. It’s not unusual for the company to utilize as many as 200 trucks a day in order to meet the production schedules for the various large excavation projects under contract. To better grasp the magnitude of these hauling operations, consider that Cherry Hill moved more than 5 million yd.3 of earth in 1999.

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And with all that dirt to excavate, sell, and move, Cherry Hill relies on three company-owned sweepers to clean up, both literally and figuratively. In order to be successful with large dirt-moving operations, it must provide the necessary street-cleaning equipment so that environmental regulations and contract specifications are satisfied.

“We sweep the streets on an almost continuous basis at dirt haul-truck exiting points, because if we don’t, we’re going to get shut down,” explains James A. Openshaw Jr., president of Cherry Hill. “By keeping the streets clean, we keep the clients and the citizens happy.”

Urban Excavations Important

Cherry Hill’s first urban mass excavation project in Washington, DC, was for the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at Federal Triangle. That project began in 1993, and Cherry Hill was responsible for the excavation and removal of 800,000 yd.3 of dirt. Following on the company’s success with its first project, Cherry Hill was recently awarded the excavation contract for the new Washington, DC Convention Center. At a total cost of $560 million, the 2.3-million-ft.2 facility will surpass the existing DC convention center in size and will be among the largest convention centers in the country. It should host its first meetings in 2003.

This immense facility could provide adequate hangar space for four Boeing 747 jumbo jets at once, reports the owner, the Washington Convention Center Authority. Its upper exhibit hall alone could accommodate two Major League Baseball fields.

In March 1999, work began in earnest. Clark/Smoot Construction, the construction manager, awarded the excavation contract to Cherry Hill and Goldin Stafford and the foundation contract to Clark Foundations. During the summer of 1999, Cherry Hill and its partner, Goldin Stafford, were busy moving the earth for the 1.3-million-yd.3 excavation for the proposed facility. “Cherry Hill also is responsible for construction of certain footings and heel blocks,” Jim Landis, onsite project superintendent, points out. In August 1999, Cherry Hill was typically utilizing 80 contracted trucks to haul the excavated material each day. At that time, Landis was in charge of about 46 employees. Plans call for excavation depths ranging from 45 ft. at the southern edge to 65 ft. at the northern end. The excavation phase is scheduled to be completed within a 13-month period. Cherry Hill, however, will continue to provide environmental services, including sweeping, throughout the entire construction project.

That’s an important goal of Cherry Hill because, year-in and year-out, urban excavation projects are an important facet of Cherry Hill’s business. “We have been most fortunate to remain heavily involved with large building excavations in downtown Washington, DC,” Openshaw says. “This year our ‘downtown holes’ will equate to approximately 30 percent of our annual volume.

“We’re also working on several municipal landfill projects, which involve both the construction of new cells and the capping of completed cells,” he points out. The landfill capping projects require a vast amount of dirt that is either provided through an onsite source or through borrow material hauled to the site.

“The landfill projects are another example of how our company deals with dirt as a commodity,” Openshaw notes. “Ideally we’re always looking to dig in one place and dump in another. ‘Networking’ the dirt provides us the opportunity of becoming involved with many types of construction projects. Our focus on the ‘flow’ of dirt has contributed immeasurably to our success with being awarded large highway construction projects.”

Perhaps the best example of this soil management program is an ongoing, large highway and bridge reconstruction project involving I-695 in the vicinity of the Bethlehem Steel plant in Baltimore, MD. This project required a large quantity of imported dirt. As a result of Cherry Hill’s involvement with a nearby excavation project, however, 500,000 yd.3 of excavated material were available for the I-695 project.

Besides mass excavations, landfills, and highway and bridge projects, Cherry Hill also has started excavation for the nationwide Information Superhighway. This contract involves the installation of multiple ducts that will carry Internet trunk lines along approximately 100 mi. of Maryland highway rights of way.

Clean Up to Stay in Business

Especially on such urban excavation projects as the new Washington, DC Convention Center at Mt. Vernon Square, the excavation contractor can’t move dirt without being prepared to clean up after itself.

For example, all 1.3 million yd.3 of dirt that will be excavated from the convention center project will be hauled over city streets (see sidebar). The Cherry Hill onsite staff has found that loader-mounted rotary brooms cannot satisfactorily meet the requirements of clean, dirt-free streets at construction entrances.

Since the convention center project will require continuous street sweeping and cleanup, Cherry Hill will use its small fleet of cleanup equipment consisting of an Elgin Crosswind regenerative air sweeper, an Elgin Eagle, and a Five Star Manufacturing Broom Bear unit to provide the environmental service needs for this project.

“When we’re working in Washington, we need a sweeper that’s different from one on a tractor,” Openshaw says. “And with more than one job working, we can move a mobile sweeper around the city to more than one job at a time.”

More Stringent Requirements

This is a change from years past. “I remember in the 1950s we turned Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill into a dirt road,” Openshaw recalls. “The environmental regulations weren’t as stringent as they are today. Now we sweep.”

Cherry Hill became heavily involved with stringent sweeping requirements through various runway paving projects at Dulles International Airport in the early 1990s. “At Dulles, you must have a sweeper on the site at all times,” Openshaw says. “At other airports, you have to assign a standby sweeper as a backup to your primary machine.” Airports are tough on cleanup because the jet engines must be protected from dirt and stones. After the airport work, Cherry Hill realized that company-owned sweepers would be beneficial for many of its other projects, including highway and bridge projects.

A Fleet of Your Own

Openshaw chooses to operate his own sweeper fleet instead of using an environmental-services subcontractor because he needs to have sweepers available at all times and on a moment’s notice. While attractive for other reasons, using a sweeping subcontractor would mean potential delays in getting a unit to a job site if needed on short notice. Also-at least within the District of Columbia-the firm is able to shuttle sweepers among nearby jobs, leveraging equipment and maximizing investment.

Uptime is of paramount importance to a successful operation, no matter what type of job you’re working on or what kind of equipment you’re using. “We’ve looked at other brands of sweepers, but Elgin is our company’s choice for our street-cleaning needs,” Openshaw says. “It’s the best one mechanically, and it outperforms other machines in terms of dependability and efficiency. On a typical project there may be 2 to 3 million dollars’ worth of equipment working on the site, and if the road isn’t clean, the job will be closed down. We certainly want the most dependable and efficient machine on the market. That’s because even though the machine is not earning money, it has to support all the other productive equipment.”

For its sweeping, Cherry Hill uses Elgin and Five Star Manufacturing Broom Bear equipment, and for all the earthmoving, it uses one brand of equipment. “Our equipment is Caterpillar, Caterpillar, and Caterpillar,” states Openshaw. The company owns a variety of Cat scrapers, excavators, graders, dozers, and loaders. Cherry Hill’s truck-mounted mechanical sweepers are used for the most heavy-duty work, such as picking up 2x4s, bricks, and sticks. “The Crosswind is used for picking up fine granular material, such as what will fall in the crevices of the pavement,” Openshaw explains. “Ideally, we would have two on a job site, using the mechanical sweeper for picking up the heavy material while the air sweeper would follow to pick up the fines.”According to Gerald Clarendon Sr., the equipment superintendent who oversees the fleet’s maintenance at the company’s facility in Jessup, the company owns approximately 900 pieces of equipment, which includes about 400 pieces of heavy mobile products such as excavators, scrapers, and loaders. The main maintenance facility is staffed by 45 in-house maintenance specialists. Additionally, the company employs nine full-time field mechanics, equipped with trucks, who operate out of temporary repair facilities at job sites.