Seattle, Wash., is a city on the grow. Nicknamed the Emerald City for its majestic evergreen trees, it is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and home to many legendary Fortune 500 companies like Nordstrom, Starbucks and Amazon.com. Other nearby Fortune 500 giants include Microsoft, Costco and Nintendo. Seattle also is known for being business-friendly and is in the midst of a number of development projects.
Taking advantage of this boom is City Transfer Inc. (CTI) — a family-owned company that’s been a lot of things in its more than 100-year existence as a mass-excavation contractor.
“We recently bought eight Hitachi Zaxis 450LCs,” said John “Kos” Kosloski Jr., CTI’s equipment manager. “Ordinarily we would maybe buy three new ones one year, then two years later get a few more and rotate out the first batch, but work necessitated we get that many all at once.”
The Zaxis orange machines are hard at work throughout the Greater Puget Sound region. Recently two of them were in the city of Kent, doing mass excavation for the new Kent Events Center. Two more were in downtown Seattle, at the bottom of a 72-ft. (22 m) pit, doing excavation for a 37-story building with a parking garage underneath.
Clearing the Zone
Once a 17.3-acre complex of baseball/softball/soccer fields, play equipment, portable restrooms, and jogging trails, the former Commons Playfield will soon to be home to the Kent Events Center and thousands of screaming Thunderbird hockey fans. The construction contract was won by M.A. Mortenson Company. CTI, pursuing its usual role as a subcontractor, is handling the site prep.
“We had to strip the entire site,” said Andrew Castaneda, site foreman. “So one of our 450s is loading out all that material. The other is loading out, too, but it is doing soil remediation — moving out contaminated soil and replacing it with good soil. We have our load times down to a minute and a half, and we can move anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 cubic yards of material a day with a 450. We run the two machines eight hours a day, all the way up to 12 to 16 hours a day if the contractor calls for that.”
To haul all that material, CTI has its own fleet of trucks. Eighty to 100 of them are rolling on the street at any one time; 67 of them are brand new.
When asked about the performance of the 450s, Castaneda bubbled with enthusiasm. “I love these machines. I broke in this one here on a big job in Bellevue last year — the first 400 hours are mine. That one was my baby; I always took care of it. As site foreman, I make sure these guys take very good care of them, too.
“I’ve had the 450 digging side by side with another brand of the same size. The Hitachi was brand new; the other one had 200 hours. The 450 was definitely faster, had more power, and was more stable with a heaped bucket. The other brand didn’t stick around too long after that.”
Belly of the Beast
Hard at work nearly seven-stories down, two Hitachi ZX450LCs look mighty small, but what they are accomplishing is huge. They’ve been excavating steadily downward, and will ultimately move 86,000 cu. yd. (65,750 cu m) of earth.
“Right now those 450s are doing some trimming for the shoring, clean-up, and loading the conveyor,” said Kevin Wicklund, site superintendent. “We’ve been here about three months, and we’ll be done in about two weeks. We have six to seven of these kinds of jobs a year. Our next one is at a hospital and will go about 80-feet deep. It’s kind of a niche for us since we have the only conveyor system that will go that deep. The conveyor loads the material right onto our trucks…takes about two minutes to load one. It’s a pretty slick deal. We typically load out 3,200 cubic yards a day. When we’re done, we don’t have to disassemble the excavators. We’ll just lift them out, in one piece, by crane.”
“We have pretty much had every brand of machine in our fleet at one time or another,” said Kosloski. “The performance of the 450 Hitachi units is great. With the increased weight and speed, especially in comparison to the machines six or seven years ago, we can set thousands of pounds, use a 72-inch digging bucket, and we’re into mass production without any problems. The 450s are great machines.”
Currently, CTI owns two Hitachi ZX450LC-3s, six ZX450LCs, a ZX350LC-3, a ZX270LC-3, an EX750, and an EX800. “Kos” credits the switch to Hitachi to several things.
“Hitachi is always up on the competition, the price is good, and we have great dealer support. When you are spending money on equipment, you want to make sure the dealer relationship is a strong one. I’ve been here about 20 years, and they’ve been with us in good times and bad. They’ve worked with us really well, and I’m happy.”
City Transfer Inc. is serviced by Papé Machinery, Tacoma, Wash.
(This story is reprinted with Hitachi Breakout’s permission.)