Running large construction equipment day and night in the heart of a major city comes with obvious challenges. Millions of pedestrians. Cramped spaces. Traffic everywhere. If a machine goes down, getting it back up and running quickly can feel like a lost cause — unless you’re paired up with the right equipment and a savvy supplier.
Just north of downtown Chicago, Walsh Group is hard at work demolishing elevated train tracks and concrete decks as part of the largest rehabilitation job in the history of the Chicago Transit Authority.
The Red and Purple Modernization project replaces century-old structures that carry the “L” train — a name given by locals to the elevated public transit system because most of the rail lines are elevated above city streets. And with well over 300,000 daily passengers and climbing, the upgrades are sorely needed.
This $2.1 billion project will deliver improved infrastructure and ridership capacity along Chicago’s most utilized transit lines. In addition to modernizing century-old junctions and rebuilding worn down stations, it calls for new bridges, support structures, tracks and 3.2 miles of signal system upgrades.
Because the jobsite sits near the center of a major metropolitan area, space is incredibly limited. Rick Anderson and his team of about 50 people are relying on versatile excavators and wheel loaders that keep the job moving along while helping crewmembers and those living and working near the jobsite remain safe.
“There’s a lot going on and everything’s tight,” says Anderson, general superintendent for Walsh Group. “For this demolition job, we’ve got sheet removal. We’re breaking up concrete. Haul trucks are moving material in and out, plus there’s general cleanup. One of the biggest challenges is logistics — getting equipment in and out while trying not to affect the surrounding neighborhood. People aren't used to construction in their backyard.”
To manage the tight spaces and get the job done with minimal impact to the community around them, the Walsh team relies on a fleet of Volvo CE heavy equipment, including 13 ECR235 excavators, two ECR355 excavators and four wheel loaders from L90s to L120s, all supplied by local Volvo CE dealer Alta Equipment Company.
“The decision about what equipment we needed was determined by the amount of space we have,” Anderson says. “Naturally, with excavators you want the reach, and it would’ve been great to have massive machines in here to tear it up. But you can't — it has to be sized for what will fit.”
To get the right sized machines for the job, Walsh turned to Alta Equipment, who currently has a wide range of large and mid-size excavators ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“We have an outstanding relationship with Walsh,” says Alyssa Van Baren, Alta Equipment account manager. “We like to sit down with our customers, get a scope of the project and see exactly what they need. We look at the big picture so we’re prepared to give them the proper equipment, service and rentals at the exact time it’s needed. And that’s what we’ve done here.”
Anderson agrees. “Even with the bidding process up front, we have to make sure machines are available to provide an accurate price,” he says. “Alyssa and the Alta team have been outstanding at letting us know what’s available and getting us exactly what we need when we need it.”
“With this particular job, there are a lot of changes going on,” says Kevin Berger, Midwest regional equipment manager for Walsh Construction. “From the start, we were looking at buying a certain number of machines, but the job changed significantly and rentals became critical. It was all unplanned. That's why we have about 17 excavators out here working right now. Alta helped make that happen.”
With so many machines running simultaneously, performance and safety have been paramount for the entire crew.
“I like to see exactly what's going on, and the 360-degree camera and short tail swing on the ECR235 help me work more confidently,” says excavator operator Nathan Lawyer. “And I like running Volvo equipment because my machine does exactly what I tell it to do. A lot of brands have a delay in the joysticks, but this machine is very smooth.”
“We also added tiltrotators so that our operators can angle the attachments and turn them easier while working in such cramped spaces,” Anderson says. “It helps us stay productive and prevent potential accidents.”
Anderson says Walsh is incomparable in their focus on safety, providing every possible avenue to create a safe working environment.
Exceptional maneuverability is only one of the advantages the Walsh team is experiencing with their machines.
“With demolition, you never know when machine service will be needed,” Anderson says. “And with Chicago traffic, it'll likely take a while to get someone in. On this particular job, we hired one of Alta Equipment’s mechanics on-site. He’s here every day, which takes the drive time and delays out. Not breaking down and keeping the job moving — that's all that matters, and Alta’s support has been the difference maker.”
It's this kind of out-of-the-box service and support that keeps the Walsh Construction team on task and on time.
“We have guiding principles here at Alta that are at the core of everything we do,” Van Baren says. “One team. Mutual respect. Invest in the best and have a passion for excellence to create customers for life. I think we’re doing that with Walsh — and we’ll continue building long-term customer relationships just like this one. Uptime matters.”
“It certainly does,” Anderson concludes. “If we ever get in a bind and need something quick, they go out of their way to help us. That’s something you just can’t put a price on.”
Watch the Walsh team at work on the CTA RPM project:
Operating heavy equipment in the heart of a major city comes with obvious challenges: Millions of pedestrians. Cramped spaces. Traffic everywhere. If a machine goes down, getting it back up and running quickly can feel like a lost cause — unless you’re paired up with the right equipment and a savvy supplier.
See why Walsh Group turned to Alta Equipment Company to get the machines they needed for one of the biggest transit projects Chicago has ever seen. Volvo excavators and wheel loaders are the backbone of this massive $2.1 billion job.