McAninch Corporation is at work on the largest grading project in Missouri Department of Transportation history, reshaping more than seven miles of rocky and rugged Ozarks terrain for a realignment of Route 5 from the Niangua Bridge south to near Route 7 at Camdenton.
Combining the power and brute force of some of the largest equipment in the industry with the accuracy and finesse of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based contractor will move more than 7.5 million cubic yards of soil and rock for the new realignment. The $44-million project also includes extensive drainage work and the construction of two interchanges and four bridges. McAninch began its work a year ago with completion scheduled for August of 2008.
"Aside from just the sheer magnitude of the project, the topography and the materials have proven to be a challenge," said Don Taylor, vice president of McAninch's Heavy-Highway Division. "It's really rugged terrain and that creates challenges even in terms of simple access to the site. One of our partners on the job is Cretex and they supplied concrete pipe for the job. We couldn't start the mass excavation until the pipe was installed and we had to work out how to get the pipe delivered. Some of those places were so steep that we had to blaze roads to them with D-11s just to get the trucks in and out. And the material is very tough. We knew that going in and that's why we have the big excavators there."
The big excavators Taylor alluded to are two Caterpillar 5110Bs, one with a 13-yard bucket, the other a 10-yard bucket.
Considering that the company and its Chairman/CEO Dwayne McAninch pioneered the use of GPS in earthmoving — with Trimble systems on their dozers, scrapers, excavators and foremen's trucks — it's no surprise that they have even equipped one of the 5110Bs with GPS.
"We have GPS on the 5110 with the 10-yard bucket and it is a tremendous time and labor saver," said McAninch Project Superintendent Bill Botkin. "By having GPS on the 5110, we don't have to be there constantly setting stakes and checking grade. That frees up my foreman and grade checkers to be other places they need to be. The operator watches the screen as he's digging and the monitor tells him exactly where he is relative to grade. It's an amazing tool and though it may be unusual to see GPS on an excavator of that size, using the technology helps us to be successful on projects of this magnitude."
Other major equipment on the project, all Caterpillar, includes nine 740 articulated dump trucks, a D-11 dozer with ripper, and several dozer/scraper spreads from D-11s with 651s and D-10s with 641s to D-9s with 631s. Because of the volume of material being moved on the project, where the deepest cut is 70 feet and the highest fill is 60 feet, crews are using D-9Ls as their fill dozer tractors.
McAninch also has GPS-equipped D-7s and D-6s for the fill and finish work as well as a 385 excavator with GPS for pipe and miscellaneous work. Foremen have Trimble systems in their trucks and grade checkers use the hand held Trimble 5800s.
In addition to the machine power and technology McAninch is bringing to bear on the project, the company's experience helped to avoid potential problems with water availability before the fact. Though surrounded by water in "lake country," McAninch hired the installation of a well and pump on the project that is paying dividends.
"We realized when we got started on the project that water was going to be very important," said Botkin. "Like Doug said (company President and COO Doug McAninch), particularly during the height of the season, if we didn't have the water we needed, we wouldn't be able to keep our dust under control on the haul roads and we wouldn't be able to keep our fills up to optimum moisture."
To ensure an adequate and convenient supply of water, McAninch hired a local well driller, Lloyd Moreland, to drill a well about 800 feet deep. The well is equipped with a pump that can supply up to 300 gallons per minute and keeps a 12,000-gallon water stand full on the project. Water truck operators can fill their trucks with 4,000 gallons in about two minutes.
"The initial investment was a consideration, of course, but it's paying off for us," Botkin said.
Though moving 7.5 million cubic yards of rock and soil in 15 months is a challenge, Botkin said the work is progressing well.
"Actually, we're a little ahead of schedule. We are a little over 50-percent done on the material," he said in late April. "Our completion date is August of 2008 but I'm fairly confident that we can get it done in late spring or early summer next year if we don't encounter any major weather problems.
The Route 5 realignment will relieve congestion and enhance safety in the busy tourist area where the traffic count averages about 4,400 vehicles per hour. The project, strongly supported by area development and transportation groups, was accelerated with Amendment 3 monies.