After 14 years of alternatively trying to ignore it or to get used to it; driving around it or driving through it; complaining about it while defending it to “outsiders,” Boston is ready to start enjoying it — The Big Dig. It’s supposed to give residents back a beautiful city, alleviate their commute and become an example of urban planning but it’s not at that stage quite yet.
There still remains a great challenge — taking down the Central Artery. The Central Artery’s elevated structures and tangled masses of freeways has marred the cityscape, obscured the view and dwarfed downtown’s buildings since the 1950s.
Now, the demolition and removal of the Central Artery is a new challenge. The job site is in a tight location, right up against the city, where everyday life must go on. The work has to be carried out safely for tens of thousands of residents, commuters and workers. It also must be completed on time and be handled with great care to avoid any negative environmental impact.
There are not many companies in the United States that would be able to take on this challenge and make it successful. When Testa Corporation, of Lynnfield, MA, was awarded the contract, there wasn’t much surprise in the industry. Testa has a good track record for projects of this scale; a fleet of machinery few other firms can match, and an unparalleled ability to use its equipment creatively and efficiently.
“An uncompromising hands-on approach,” is how Testa’s style is described by John Ruffo, the company’s vice president, and evidenced by company owner Steve Testa’s constant, personal visits to the job sites while observing, analyzing and looking for better ways of doing things, that are already being well done.
According to the Engineering News Record, Testa is the fourth largest demolition and earthmoving company in the country, and still tries as hard as its first day in business.
“On jobs the size we do, you know things are not going to be 100-percent perfect a 100 percent of the time, but that’s still what we aim for, 100 percent,” said Ruffo. “We acknowledge there are going to be tough spots, particularly in sensitive areas such as safety and the environment. We constantly look for them [tough spots], and we go to any length to improve,” explained Ruffo, talking about the unvarying attention to detail that characterizes a Testa job.
The windows of opportunity during which the work can be performed are incredibly restricted and yet completing the job on schedule is a must. There are hundreds of machines working very close to each other, performing challenging demolition operations in very tight locations, next to neighborhoods, business districts and busy highways. Given the circumstances, Testa has made a total commitment to safety and the environment.
Environmental issues rate very high with the Testa team. Safety boxes and clean-up kits are visible on site; there’s always a “safety officer” on duty; and every Testa employee receives rigorous job-specific environmental compliance training.
Testa is the only “Big Dig” contractor with a state-approved Environmental Management System (EMS) plan. “The plan is designed to identify, manage and track environmental compliance,” explained Ruffo. “There are plastic placards on each piece of equipment summarizing EMS procedures, as well as wallet cards for each operator, detailing what must be done in case of spills, hazardous material presence, and so on.”
Custom-developed by the environmental consulting firm, Lightship Engineering, Testa’s EMS plan is exhaustive, with detailed sections on corporate accountability, responsibilities, compliance tracking, audits, training and meticulous operating procedures. Everyone’s role is described-from the president to the parts runners and the laborers.
Demolition Process and Equipment
Testa is one of the pioneers of the “cut and carry” system, by which large sections of the elevated structures are removed with surgical precision, and taken to nearby yards for safer dismantling. This process allows for better containment of hazardous materials and for the prevention of dust and debris.
Because some Cat excavators use as many as three different attachments in one day, and all the excavators work in confined areas, the conventional method — transporting the attachment to the excavator by means of a flatbed 18-wheel truck — did not meet the Testa standard.
“We take the big picture approach and we cut down on time and on potential hazards. It was a waste of valuable time, with either the truck driver or the excavator operator having to wait around; and even worse, an increase in safety risks, having the trucks maneuver in the tight spots,” said Ruffo.
This problem led to another Testa innovation — the use of “drop-off” or roll-off boxes. Commonly used in the waste industry, these boxes are being put to work by Testa in a totally different way. The driver drops the attachments in a drop-box near the area where the excavator works, and leaves. When the operator is ready for the switch, the attachment is there.
Choosing the right machines, and keeping them running at top efficiency is a mandate across the board at Testa. When the company was awarded the contract, Testa made the decision to buy 12 new 345BL Series and five B30CL Series Caterpillar excavators from Southworth-Milton, headquartered in Milford, MA. In addition, it purchased numerous attachments, to add to its already robust lineup.
“It made good business sense,” said Ruffo. “Good machinery, equipped with state-of-the-art features to reduce noise, leaks and emissions, is a must for the success of a project such as this one.”
Stepping up to its commitment to complete the project efficiently and safely, Testa has added an order for five more new excavators from the northeast Caterpillar dealership, to be delivered in the fall.
The high visibility of the Central Artery project puts a magnifying glass over what’s already a No. 1 priority for Testa. “Our safety record on the job is always important, but on this one, Testa has a very high profile,” explained Ruffo.
Testa started the Central Artery’s demolition project with the right ingredients in place and is completing it according to plan.