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Rock-Free Dirt Speeds Up Monroe’s Work at 1,000 Unit Development

Fri December 21, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Matt Houpt

Coming across an out-of-the-ordinary situation in construction usually isn’t a good thing, at least in terms of time. But Monroe Roadways, of Charlotte, N.C., is benefiting from a less-than-ordinary situation in its $21 million housing development project in Waxhaw, N.C., that the group took over in March 2006.

“We’ve had almost no rock to deal with, just dirt and clay. Because of this, our tractor and scrapers have been ideal for both the scraping and the compaction,” Monroe Roadways co-owner Bob Ryan said.

The John Deere 9520 and two 1810E scrapers are the newest addition to Monroe’s equipment fleet tackling earthwork, along with excavators, backhoes, graders, rollers, water trucks and off-road trucks.

The massive effort will result in a 1,000-unit housing development project, with surrounding hotspots. The job spans roughly 2,200 acres (890 ha) across the border and just into South Carolina.

With all of the work and earthmoving involved with the project, area residents are not really impacted by the construction. Ryan said that the lowering of Kensington Road has created the only detour in the project, for which 5 million cu. yd. (3.8 million cu m) of earth will be moved. The everyday pains for commuters may last through the estimated completion date of the project in January 2009, but temporary inconvenience will allow for a safer commute in the future.

“We have completely rebuilt two miles of Kensington Road to improve sight for drivers at a number of intersections,” Ryan said.

Monroe lowered Kensington Road, also named Waxhaw Marvin Road in certain portions, 3 ft. (0.9 m) in areas spanning from Waxhaw into South Carolina.

Monroe Roadways was the low bidder on the project, which is being funded by Starwood Carolina. Ryan said the effort should be of great benefit to local residents.

“I know a Harris Teeter is in the building stages as well as an EMS. I have also heard of plans for swimming pools and ball fields for the Kensington area. A big part of what we’re doing is creating and improving both interior roads and major highways that will make all of these additions easily accessible,” Ryan said.

For the project, Monroe Roadways used a John Deere tractor combined with accompanying scrapers to prep the roadway areas. Monroe’s team has piloted the project in every aspect from the beginning, including clearing, the water main and sewers, and even the house pads. Granite Contracting is the subcontractor that will pave the nearly 10 mi. (16 km) of road with 3-in. (7.6 cm) blacktop. Monroe has bedded these roadways with ABC stone, and lined both sides with concrete curbs and gutters.

Ryan said the tractor/scraper combination has created more breathing room at the job site.

“You need less support equipment — actually you need almost no support equipment,” Ryan said about the company’s newest addition to its fleet. “At least in our circumstances, you don’t need any dozers or even a roller. We’ve gotten great compaction from the tractor and the scrapers themselves.”

Monroe has been able scrape and smooth with the combo as it was designed, but the compaction is not instantaneous. Ryan said that it takes a few passes to achieve the required 95 percent compaction. But that’s not to say the new addition to Monroe’s fleet hasn’t paid off in many other areas.

“It has allowed us to take our conventional scrapers to other phases of the job, and even other jobs,” Ryan said.

Monroe both owns and leases the equipment it uses for big jobs such as this one. Monroe purchased the 450 hp (335 kW) tractor and scrapers from James River Equipment in Charlotte, N.C., a company Monroe uses to service all of its John Deere products.

“I am very confident in James River, particularly their qualified mechanics and just the way they handle business,” Ryan said.

Mother Nature also has helped immensely. With the severe drought situation, Monroe’s crews, totaling 90 to 100 workers through a single day shift, have not been slowed by off days due to inclement weather. Working with more easily transportable dirt has eased time constraints as well. However, Ryan said that crews have not had to import or export any dirt, which, as of right now, has been used as fill on this balanced work site.

“Our progress has been accelerated because of the weather. We haven’t had a day off for six months. But I’m sure that will change. That’s just the business we’re in,” Ryan joked.

In addition to the Waxhaw site, Monroe is working on housing developments in Charlotte and Gastonia. Although the new John Deere tractor and scrapers are not currently being used in either of these projects, Ryan said the contractor’s Charlotte job will be graded with the new equipment down the road.

Paul Carini, co-owner of Monroe Roadways with Bob Ryan, estimated the multi-million dollar Waxhaw project during a scary time for real estate companies throughout the country. Despite the recent nationwide housing slump, Ryan remains optimistic for Charlotte, an area he believes, so far, remains unscathed in comparison with the rest of the country.

“Charlotte has been an exception. I think because our area just hasn’t realized it yet, though I’m sure it’s coming. There’s a general feeling in the area that it will not last long here,” Ryan said. “It hasn’t slowed us [Monroe] down yet at least. But we also are fortunate to have a couple other projects going for us at this time too.” CEG

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