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Alpha Finds Colorado Gold at End of Rainbow With Wirtgen

Sat March 24, 2001 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In April, asphalt milling contractor Alpha Milling Co. Inc., used one of its versatile W 1900 DC cold milling machines to remove aged asphalt in the downtown historic district of Golden, CO, as part of a street reconstruction project.

With the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to the west, the famous Coors Brewery to the east, and hemmed in by the massive North and South Table Mountains, Golden lies in a spot of scenic beauty.

Golden was an early gold mining town and trading depot. While ultimately surpassed by sprawling Denver to the west, Golden has retained its period architecture and visitors now enjoy a selection of saloons, shops, tourist attractions and restored historic structures.

Against this backdrop, and with precision, Milling Foreman Jeff Palumbo and Groundman John Parks negotiated the W 1900 DC — with its 6-ft. 7-in. (2.1 m) wide cutter drum — down major streets, up narrow alleys, and to-and-fro across parking lots.

“They are milling 4- to 7-in. deep, full-width, as part of a street reconstruction project,” said Paul Valdez, Alpha’s operator/foreman. Alpha served as subcontractor to Asphalt Paving Company of Golden.

Pulling Teeth a Joy

As an operator, Valdez pays special attention to features that optimize productivity. And to him, the ease of replacing tooth holders stands out.

“The Type III holders are so much easier to work with,” said Valdez. “If you happen to ’burn’ a holder, you unscrew a bolt, remove the holder, clean it out, put another one back in and you’re done. There’s no welding or high maintenance in the drum area.” While Wirtgen’s system can take five minutes from start to finish, welded systems take up to one hour to repair.

While Valdez considers the Wirtgen models to be fundamentally operator-friendly, Wirtgen’s liberal use of international symbols on the controls took a little getting used to. “When we demoted the first 1900, the symbols and many controls were intimidating,” he said. “But once you start doing the work the symbols are less and less important. Right away you know where everything’s at.”

Carving a Niche in Milling

In the space of only three years, Alpha has been able to carve out its niche in the heated competition of the cold milling arena. Alpha specializes in smaller county and municipal jobs within 75 mi. (120 km) of Denver, bypassing the big interstate and state highway work.

“We expanded really fast,” said Alpha President and Owner Larry J. Ware. “I purchased one Wirtgen and in a month’s time I had to purchase another. In our first year we did $1.2 million of work, so we had a pretty decent year.”

And the second year was just as rewarding. “We did $2.2 million in 1999,” Ware said. “That year I bought the W 2000 off the lot at ConExpo/Con-Agg, and just purchased another W 2000 this year. It’s a very competitive market, but if you have good machines and good people you have the world on a string.”

Going into the summer season, Alpha had about 16 employees. Each year, from March through December, each machine is seeing about 1,300 hours’ worth of work, Ware said.

But Alpha was able to find work outside the standard season in February 1999. “One interesting job completed in early 1999 was work at Colorado University’s football field, milling off the artificial turf asphalt base prior to their putting in natural grass,” Ware said.

Relying on Wirtgen

Since its founding in 1998, Alpha has based its fleet on Wirtgen products. The firm has two W l900s, two W 2000s, and a 1000 VC, and in spring, had a W 500 utility mill on order.

Ware first encountered Wirtgen machines at a previous cold milling firm with which he was associated. “I had the 1000 VC at the prior company and had hardly any problems with it,” Ware said. “I was totally impressed.”

Ware’s machines’ front-loading capabilities are winning friends among Ware’s prime contractor clients in terms of traffic control and production, Ware said. “With the front-load, trucks can go with the flow of traffic and don’t have to back up to the milling machine,” he said. “The continuous flow — with trucks not having to turn out and back around in — means so much to contractors.”

And even with a front-loading conveyor — instead of the conveyor blocking the operator’s view — operator visibility actually is enhanced, because he or she doesn’t have to keep turning around to see where the conveyor is aiming, Ware said.

Down-Sized Model on Order

In April, Alpha had ordered a much smaller Wirtgen machine — the W 500 — to replace the skid-steer-mounted 18-in. (45.7 cm) cutters it was using for small milling jobs like manholes and curbs.

“We’re really pleased with the Wirtgens, and think it will be a lot more cost-effective to go with the dedicated model instead of the skid-steer loaders,” Valdez said. “They’re more productive, a lot quicker and a lot cleaner. And from operating the other machines, I know they are a lot more operator-friendly.”

(Reprinted from Wirtgen Technology with permission from Wirtgen America Inc.)

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