The Beaver Excavating Company and its Hitachi fleet is making history by working on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s biggest road project ever – the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway.
Sixteen miles of four-lane divided highway. Twenty-one bridges. Five interchanges. Twenty million cubic yards of excavation. 300,000 square feet of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall.
The Beaver Excavating Company is making history by helping complete the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) massive Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway (State Route 823) project. And they’re making it happen in less than four years – three years and eight months, to be exact. Once completed, the highway will bypass approximately 26 miles of U.S. routes 52 and 23 through the City of Portsmouth in Scioto County.
This project is one for the books. With a $430+ million design and construction price tag, it’s Ohio’s largest project in terms of dollar value and earthwork volume. It’s also a design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) project set up as a P3 (public-private partnership), which makes it the first of its kind in ODOT history.
ODOT’s public-private partner is a group of companies known as the Portsmouth Gateway Group. Additionally, the Beaver Excavating Company, Dragados USA Inc. and The John R. Jurgensen Company formed the Portsmouth Joint Venture (PJV), which is responsible for managing $430+ million worth of design and construction aspects of the project.
Established in 1953, Beaver Excavating has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the largest heavy civil and highway infrastructure construction companies in Ohio and the surrounding region.
“Beaver Excavating is family-owned, field-centric and we have a strong safety culture,” said Chad Ratkovich, Beaver Excavating project manager. “These attributes make us a good fit for this job. Our success is based on adherence to our company core values and positioning ourselves competitively by partnering with companies that complement our strengths. We’re honored to be part of this project.”
For the project’s 20 million cubic yards of earthmoving, Beaver Excavating brought its Hitachi EX1200 mining excavators on site. The company worked with its local Hitachi dealer Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co., which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, to add two EX1200 excavators to the fleet to handle the project demands. This brought the grand total to six EX1200 excavators on site.
“On this project, we’re averaging 1 million cubic yards of excavated material a month with the six Hitachi machines we’re running,” said Rich Stidd, Beaver Excavating superintendent who also has operating experience. “Peak production has hit 1.7 million cubic yards.”
The numbers don’t lie, and Stidd is pleased with the machines’ performance.
“When anyone asks my opinion on production machines, my first choice and suggestion is always going to be Hitachi due to the production, longevity and the overall brand,” Stidd said.
It’s important to mention that the project’s “earthmoving” consists of 97 percent rock – sandstone, shale and limestone – that must be blasted every day. Beaver Excavating is also making cuts as deep as 200 feet and using the material for fill on other parts of the project.
Jeremiah Johnson, Beaver Excavating field manager, said coordination is key to keeping the project on track.
“We’re blasting every day – sometimes twice a day – and that takes a lot of coordination,” Johnson said. “You get into a rhythm, ramp up production, and then you might hit a roadblock. The important thing is how you react to that to keep the project moving.”
Life in the fast line
Initially, ODOT planned for the bypass to be a traditional, three-phase project. However, the plan changed when the P3 option became available.
“The P3 option of delivering all 16 miles of roadway as a single-phase project opened up due to legislation, and it accelerated the project timeline by 17 years,” Ratkovich said.
Ratkovich said the P3 also allows ODOT to pay off construction costs over 35 years, during which the developer will operate and maintain the highway. After the 35 years, the developer will hand over the highway to ODOT.
According to Beaver Excavating, the bypass will complete the Appalachian Highway system in Ohio and reduce the current 26-mile travel time (using U.S. routes 52 and 23 through Portsmouth) by avoiding 30 traffic signals, 80 intersections and 500 driveways. Using the new highway, ODOT estimates a travel time savings of 16 minutes.
Beaver Excavating started the project in June 2015 and anticipates completion at the end of 2018. And Stidd said the company’s Hitachi excavators will continue to be a major part of crossing the finish line.
“Hitachi has played a huge role on the largest earthmoving project in Ohio,” Stidd said. “The productivity and durability of the machines has kept the project on pace. Hitachi gets the job done!”
Project at a Glance:
16 miles of roadway
4 lanes of divided highway
26 miles of bypassed highway
20 million yds3 of excavation
300,000 ft2 of MSE wall
$430+ million design and construction
The Beaver Excavating Company is serviced by Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co. in Jackson, Canton and eight other locations throughout Ohio.