Equipment Focus: Making the Cut

Features - Products & Equipment

A demolition tool helps meet a tight bridge demolition deadline in Denver.

March 18, 2013
CDR Staff

When Denver’s Interstate 25 and 84th Ave. bridge needed replacing, Performance Equipment Service stepped in to help its client contractor get the job done on time.

Performance Equipment is first and foremost an equipment rental house, but it provides extra workforce when its clients are in a pinch.

The strict timeline for the project required the bridge to come down in just two night shifts, with the area open to traffic by 5 a.m. each morning. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) would impose stiff fines if these times weren’t met.

Performance Equipment Service is a store that started out as a family venture 13 years ago in Erie, Colo. Donnie Fetters, owner and president, says client contractors on jobs requiring an excavator with an extended boom sometimes ask Fetters or one of his operators to jump in.

To help meet the strict time requirements, Performance Equipment brought in an Atlas Copco CC 3300 Combi Cutter to help speed things along. “I could have done it with just the pulverizers, maybe. But that was a hard deadline to meet,” says Fetters. “The Combi Cutter got us off the freeway faster. Maybe it only cut a little more than an hour off each night, but an hour makes me look better.”

Fetters had two five-hour windows in which to complete the work. He arrived for the first shift just before midnight and finished by 4:15 a.m. The next night he arrived shortly after 11 p.m. and was done by 3:30 a.m.

Handling with Care

Donnie Fetters, owner and president of Performance Equipment Service, Erie, Colo., says he liked the Atlas Copco CC 3300 Combi Cutter he used during the Interstate 25 and 84th Ave. bridge demolition enough to buy it outright for his business after the bridge demolition.

The next project using the Combi Cutter was to be a steel building. Fetters didn’t anticipate any problem cutting through 14-inches girders with the tool. The CC 3300 has an optional jaw package for metal.

Fetters says he plans to use discretion when renting out the tool. “Well, yeah. I’ll rent it out. We’re a rental house above anything else. We never compete with our contractors—but I’ll have to have a lot of trust in the operator.”

To ensure that trust, Combi Cutter rental will come with a thorough checkout and some quality hands-on coaching before Fetters says he will completely put the tool into other hands.

As with all of Performance Equipment’s rentals, Fetters says he wants to keep the unit in the absolute best possible condition, guaranteeing that his rental customers will have a similarly positive experience to the one he had when he first used the tool.

This completed the final demolition phases of the 44-foot-wide 1960s-era bridge. Two Atlas Copco HB3000 heavy-duty breakers turned the 44-foot concrete span into “the better part of 60 semitrailer dump loads” of rubble, Fetters says. He recycled the material to provide a base for his company’s 7.5 acre equipment yard area.

“I’d guess it would have been a six-hour-a-night job for the pulverizers. What’s nice about the Combi Cutter is I could slice the bridge up, take it down whole chunks at a time,” says Fetters.

Fetters adds that he liked the capability of the Combi Cutter, with its independent jaws and metal shearing knives. “My first impression was, the knives were sure wearing well. In fact, there’s no sign of wear yet, except for the paint that came off the jaws. No nicks—and this was big No. 9 rebar.”

“You nibble at it with the jaws, take the end 10 inches, and then get in there with your knives for the exposed rebar,” he says of the demolition process.

Fetters looked at other equipment for the job, but he says the Combi Cutter was the top performer. “None of those others have the teeth the Combi Cutter has. One on top and two on the bottom.”

Final Touches

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) website,, the bridge replacement project on 84th Ave. over I-25 began in late February 2011. The original bridge was constructed in 1959 and was described as being in poor condition. The new bridge is wider to accommodate an additional left turn lane from eastbound 84th Ave. to northbound I-25. In addition, there are 10-foot sidewalks on each side of the bridge to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Zak Dirt Inc. was the contractor for $8 million project, the majority of which was funded by Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER), which is dedicated to improving safety and replacing poor bridges. The city of Thornton, Colo., funded the architectural enhancements to the bridge.

CDOT reports all major work had been completed on the bridge as of January 2013.


He found the action to be a unique design advantage. “The self-leveling really impressed me. The jaws don’t put pressure on your tractor. One side stays put and the other comes around, balanced. No one else could tell me they had that. [It’s the] first one I’ve seen like that, and it makes it stronger. The other cutter I have doesn’t have nearly the strength of this one.”

He says he believes there is something to be said about a difference in weight. “This unit is about 2,500 pounds lighter than that other one. That’s easier on my tractor, too. Easier to work with.”


The article was submitted by Ellenbecker Communications on behalf of Atlas Copco, Commerce City, Colo.