Challenging Site Work In Cartersville

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

When Komatsu America set out to construct a new equipment demonstration area at its training center near Cartersville, Ga., the idea was to provide a state-of-the-art year-round facility for equipment demonstration and operator training and certification, as well as a site at which new Komatsu products could be introduced and demonstrated.

C.A. Murren & Sons Co., based in Duluth, Ga., was named as the contractor to build the new demonstration area, with Eric Simpson serving as project manager and Greg Smith as site manager. Founded in 1985, the company is a total site development contractor that handles projects throughout the southeastern United States.

The new equipment demonstration area covers about 34 acres and has been constructed to allow equipment to be put through its paces under jobsite conditions. At its heart is a flat 11-acre equipment demonstration pad on the upper part of the site. This area includes two elevated islands as well as a bench on the north end of the pad, each designed to allow equipment to be put through its paces. An 84-foot-long bleacher enclosure along one side of the area will seat up to 200 observers during new product introductions and other special events.

The new demonstration area also features a 40-foot-wide, 2,400-foot-long demonstration haul road, complete with steep grades and tight turns. Operators will be able to load trucks on top, then run the trucks down the haul road, turn around in the cul-de-sac and run back uphill. From the upper loading area to the lower cul-de-sac there is an elevation change of about 150 feet, and along the way operators will encounter grades of more than 12 percent. The haul road is surfaced with about 14,000 tons of GAB.

The overall work also included enhancements and additions to the facility's parking.

The contractor completed the work under two contracts — one for construction of the new demonstration area and a second for the work on the facility's parking. Construction was completed in the fall of 2006, and by the time all was said and done close to 1.2 million yards of site work had been completed.

Construction of the demonstration area began with the removal of an existing paved parking lot. The pavement on the 400-foot by 60-foot parking area was removed using Komatsu PC-200 excavators, D61 dozers and tandem dump trucks. The material was stockpiled, then processed through a Komatsu BR-480 crusher to produce recycled material for use in construction of other parking areas on the site.

While that work was going on, crews from Advanced Clearing Concepts, Covington, Ga., were at work clearing the demonstration area. Using Komatsu PC220 excavators outfitted with pincher attachments, as well as Komatsu PC200 excavators, these crews completed the mixed pine and hardwood clearing and logging operation in about four weeks.

"It was a vertically challenging project," notes Smith, referring to the extremely steep terrain that the site presented to the construction team. He notes that there were "a lot of near vertical faces," and he adds that much of the timber had to be winched up the slopes after being cut. But despite the challenging terrain, the clearing operation was completed over a period of about four weeks.

With clearing complete, attention turned to actual earthwork — but not before the team spent an additional two and a half weeks building temporary haul roads on which to run the 65-ton trucks that would transport cut and fill material. To complete this road construction, crews utilized not only a Komatsu D155 dozer but also a D475.

"We had a lot of roads to complete," Smith says, "and we wanted to get them done as quickly as we could."

Fortunately, rock was not a problem, at least not early in the project. However, in some areas, there was significant topsoil to deal with before placement of fill could begin.

"We had expected minimal topsoil," notes Simpson. "But in some areas we found 3 feet to 4 feet of organic material and topsoil. We spent a lot of time clearing that material out." The material was hauled out using a fleet of trucks that included a pair of Komatsu HD605s, all traveling on the newly completed haul roads.

The actual cut and fill operation — by far the largest aspect of the project — got under way early last year with work on the first of many cut areas. Fills of 30 feet to 40 feet were not at all unusual, and cuts were as much as 70 feet to 75 feet in depth.

Because of the steepness of the terrain, it was not unusual to have a major cut located located right beside a major fill. In one area, for example, a 60-foot cut was located immediately adjacent to a 70-foot fill. Most of the fill — about 650,000 cubic yards of it — went into the equipment demonstration and haul road area. The contractor also had to deal with occasional unusual site conditions, among them an old 63-foot-deep mining pit that had to be filled.

"The terrain was challenging," says Smith "but we're a company that likes a challenge."

The contractor also handled drainage construction on the site, including installation of almost 3,000 feet of French drains.

Although rock was not a problem during the early stages of excavation, it did become a factor as excavation progressed. Much of the rock was ripped using a Komatsu D375 outfitted with a ripper tooth. But one particularly troublesome mass of rock — a knobby rock intrusion in one part of the equipment demonstration area — was dealt with using a hydraulic hammer mounted on a Komatsu PC300.

The nature of the rock also proved to be a challenge to bucket teeth and blade edges. The rock in the area proved very abrasive, and as a result the contractor typically got only one week's use out of a set of backhoe teeth and only two weeks use out of the cutting edge on a dozer blade.

"And we went through about two ripper teeth each day," Smith adds.

To keep up with the demanding schedule, the contractor kept equipment going 13 hours a day. Light towers allowed crews to work efficiently even after dark.

Meanwhile, work continued to move ahead on the parking area. Following completion of site work and grading in the new parking area, crews placed curb and gutter. Attention then turned to placement of asphalt paving. Bartow Paving Company was the subcontractor for curb work and for paving on the parking area portion of the project.

Because of the relatively remote nature of the site, logistical planning was important to keep that equipment running. To that end, the contractor instituted various measures, including a 14,500-gallon on-site fuel storage system.

"For a couple of months there," notes Smith, "we were using about 9,000 gallons of fuel each week."

To handle maintenance and service on the project's fleet, C.A. Murren & Sons utilized not only its own mechanics but also mechanics from Tractor & Equipment Company, the local Komatsu dealer.

Aside from the sheer magnitude of the project, Simpson says, one of the biggest challenges during the project was weather.

"It was either rain, which meant we had to deal with runoff and mud control," he says, "or dry, which meant we had to deal with dust control."

Despite the tough terrain and challenging conditions, the project went smoothly.

"There has been a good synergy between us all," notes Ed Warner, Komatsu's senior product manager in charge of the demonstration site and product training. "There has been a good blending of ideas, and we have come up with some good solutions."