Big rig in Kennett Township

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The hydradig is used to improve site lines and clear ditches in Kennett Township. (Photo courtesy of Kennett's Public Works Director Theodore Otteni)

What weighs more than 11 tons, goes up to 25 mph and swings 360 degrees, has its own online presence on Kennett Township’s Facebook page, and tears out part of a hill without blocking two lanes of traffic?

The hydradig, a hydraulic wheeled excavator that Kennett Township’s Public Works Department has rented this month.

“It’s got all the function of an excavator – turning bucket, long reach – but rather than using a traditional tracked excavator that has to be put on an 18-wheeler … this machine is on wheels so that we can drive it from site to site,” Kennett’s Public Works Director Theodore D. Otteni said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Hydra,” as the township has dubbed the machine, was rented from Stephenson Equipment on April 5 for a month so the public works crews could improve sight distance at intersections and clear ditches, Otteni said. The rental cost $8,250, which was part of the bill voucher list approved at Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting.

During the public works report, Otteni shared pictures of Hydra in action. The public works crew had used it to cut away part of an embankment at Hannum and Rosedale roads to improve the sight distance.

“It’s very efficient,” he said. “In the past we’ve used a traditional backhoe, and that would completely take up the entire road. The hydradig and a dump truck can sit in one lane, and our guys can be in the other lane and keep traffic moving.”

In an April 12 post on the township’s Facebook page, “Hydra” posted, “My 1st project out and about in Kennett Township! Happy to be giving the corner of Hannum and Rosedale a ‘buzz cut’ to improve sight distance! In mud & dirt, Hydra.”

Other areas where the public works crews used Hydra were at Woodward and Norway roads, as well as Hillendale Road and Raven Drive, according to Otteni.

“There is a significant time saving with the hydradig,” he said in an email. “And even more so if you calculate the time savings for the motoring public if they found the road closed and had to find alternate routes. It is important to emphasize that a tracked/traditional excavator would need to be loaded/unloaded from a tractor-trailer and hauled to each site.”

Otteni explained that the work could have been done using the township-owned backhoe, “but (it) has less maneuverability and a smaller reach and requires the entire roadway to be closed while the work is performed.” Another option would have been to rent a traditional excavator, but the downside to that, he said, was potential damage to asphalt and the need to hire “a truck and trailer operator to move it around.”

Otteni said it is likely Hydra would make a return appearance in Kennett Township.

“The proper equipment always makes a project more efficient and safer for the employees as well as the traveling public,” he said. “So yes, it is likely we would rent this again. This rental is also being used as an opportunity to see if a hydradig would be a prudent purchase in the future.”

Otteni also encouraged residents to let the public works department know of any other areas in the township where site distance is an issue.

About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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