Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Paving Corp.
Despite its age, giant drill Big Stan (in yellow) is booked up in the Southwest.

Las Vegas is crowded with performers, but few are as huge as Big Stan. Thought to be the world's largest truck-mounted drill, Big Stan is flexing its muscles south of the Strip on a $252.5-million, 7-mile-long widening of Interstate 15.

Big Stan's tall stance originally sprang from deep roots. The 250,000-lb, 93-ft-high boring behemoth was built in 1986 by Anderson Drilling, Lakeside, Calif., now a part of London-based Keller Group PLC. The mega-machine, which cost $1.5 million to construct, is named after 6-ft, 3-in.-tall Stan Anderson, who retired as company president in 2006.

“It didn't take long to realize that what you could buy in the marketplace wasn't adequate enough for the hard ground in Las Vegas,” says Anderson. “The bigger the rig, the more work you can get done.” The region's caliche-laden soil often requires heavy drills, trenchers and blasters to break up the sedimentary rock.

With 534,000 ft-lbs of torque and 75,000 lb of crowd pressure, the drill can bore down 200 ft at a rate of nearly 39 rpm. Its augers weigh up to 15,000 lbs. They can drill holes as large as 30 ft in dia and remove up to 5 cu yd of dirt at one time. Big Stan is mounted on a 40-ft-long, five-axle truck. It can also fit onto a half- or full-crawler tracked carrier.

Powered by a 600-hp, six-cylinder Cummins engine, Big Stan has been featured on the Discovery Channel's “Monster Machines” program in an episode highlighting the world's largest construction and mining equipment. Despite its size, Big Stan is incredibly agile; it can be set up and ready to work within an hour.

Big Stan is uniquely mobile, too. “It can go down the road in two pieces,” says Daniel Cadenhead, president of Anderson Drilling. The monster machine competes with other equipment that takes eight and 10 truckloads to transport and requires a week to set up. “We were thinking about building another one, but it would cost $4.5 million to duplicate in today's dollars,” Cadenhead adds.

Big Plans for Big Stan

Despite its vintage, Big Stan is still in demand. Anderson Drilling is currently working as a subcontractor to Las Vegas Paving Corp., which is performing a design-build upgrade of I-15 between Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue on the southern outskirts of Las Vegas. Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, Calif., is design subcontractor. The project calls for reconfiguring three interchanges, adding 26 bridge segments and paving 35 lane-miles of new road.

Big Stan recently worked on the new, 900-ft-long, 40-ft-wide Blue Diamond Road flyover—which is a direct connection for eastbound traffic onto northbound I-15—that bypasses two traffic signals. The five-span, two-lane bridge structure is supported by a foundation of 30 drilled piers up to 10 ft dia and 100 ft deep. While other drills are being used on the job, Big Stan is the star of the show.

The mega-drill will move its act to the I-15/215 Beltway interchange later this summer for more widening work.

“Braiding of the successive on and off ramps will eliminate the severe weaving problems, improving traffic flow,” says Las Vegas paving division manager Corey Newcome. “Depending upon the segment, the widening will add 30% to 85% more capacity along that stretch of I-15, which sees 200,000 vehicles a day.”

Scheduled to finish in mid-2012, thanks in part to the giant drill, the project will boost capacity and safety.