Carson & Roberts reaches the 90 percent completion mark on the excavation phase of the West Point Military Academy Motor Pool Relocation Project. By Brooke Infusino
Motor Pool Relocation Project
Project Value: $10.5 Million
Location: West Point, N.Y.
Employees: 40 to 100
Scope: Earthwork, Excavation and Utility Work
Each project Carson & Roberts Site Construction and Engineering, Inc. goes after is a chance for the Lafayette, N.J., site engineering, excavation and horizontal drilling firm to put its best foot forward. When your reputation is your most valuable asset, as it is at the company, accurately bidding projects and performing quality work is a requirement.
Vice President John Roberts says the firm has grown from a small site contractor to one of the largest civil firms in New Jersey. He says the company is holding its own in the down market by expanding its geographic reach to the south and by operating two complimentary divisions: site work and underground utilities.
In a recent interview with Building & Construction Northeast, Roberts explains how the firm is utilizing its skills and divisions to get new business, as well as its role on the West Point Military Academy Motor Pool Relocation Project.
John Roberts: Currently the construction market has tightened in the way of competition and the cost owners are willing to pay, less projects to bid results in more competition and lower pricing. To offset current market conditions, we continue to implement stringent cost controls and improve on our operating efficiency. Also, we have expanded our geographic reach to include the entire East Cost and Mid-Atlantic regions for site work, and the entire country for auger boring and horizontal drilling businesses.
BCNE: Which market sectors are currently performing best for Carson & Roberts?
JR: Carson & Roberts is split into two distinct, but complementary divisions: site and underground. Fortunately, both divisions are performing well. Having two divisions provides us with a level of diversification to help minimize market volatility.
BCNE: How do you secure new projects?
JR: We continually seek out new projects to bid that suit our skill set and size. We are a full-service site construction company, and we self-perform earthwork, utility work, concrete work, paving, jack/boring and horizontal directional drilling. This allows us to bid many projects in the marketplace. Once we are awarded a contract, we fully staff the project with on-site project managers and site superintendents. We have found that the additional cost to provide on-site management more than pays for itself in the way of increased efficiency and expediting schedules. It also provides the added benefit of continual monitoring and better control of our projects.
BCNE: How do you view the Northeast construction market today?
JR: Clearly, the Northeast construction market has slowed and there is less work to go around. In past markets, developers, owners, general contractors and construction managers would have numerous projects for us to bid and we could be much more selective as to which projects we decided to pursue. Today, although we remain selective, we must expend more effort to continually develop more opportunities. BCNE: What issues does a contractor face in the Northeast aside from competition? JR: Fluctuations in material costs can be challenging. From ductile iron pipe to asphalt, materials can be very volatile. We try to minimize this risk by linking our contracts to published material indices. If these commodities fluctuate, generally a client will understand and be willing to provide additional compensation, likewise if these indices lower, clients would see a credit. Another issue is the additional regulations and permitting requirements. Dealing with these issues takes considerably more time than in the past. It seems now owners and engineers have shifted some of the approval/permitting process onto the contractor. We responded by putting project administrators in place to deal with these items along with any other coordination issues.
BCNE: Are you exploring or employing any new technologies or design methods?
JR: We created our underground division to serve the jack/bore and horizontal directional drill markets. This has provided us with a new source of revenue and it continues to grow as the consulting and design engineers become more familiar with this technology.
BCNE: Describe your involvement with the West Point Motor Pool Relocation Project.
JR: The West Point Motor Pool Relocation Project is being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the West Point Military Academy. The existing motor pool – located on the campus – is being relocated to off-site. Suffolk Construction is the construction manager/general contractor. We were awarded the project in August 2009. The 30-acre site is heavily wooded with steep rocky, terrain. Our scope includes:
We have teamed with several contractors to help successfully complete this project. We are approximately 90 percent complete with the earthwork phase of the project. The remaining work, which consists of utility installation, curbing and paving, will continue through the winter, and the project is expected to be complete by May of 2010.
Carson & Roberts began work April 15, 2009 and is scheduled for completion of site preparation in the fourth quarter of 2009. When completed, the new 80-acre Riverbend District, currently under construction, will feature 2,000 residential units, two hotels and 800,000 square feet of retail space, including large format retailers, cinema, arts and entertainment tenants, a wellness center and health club, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes. The development also will incorporate 1.5 million square feet of corporate and boutique office space. Advance Realty, headquartered in Bedminster, N.J. is the owner/developer.
Originally occupied by factories, remediation of the Riverbend District first involved the removal of 48,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, a task completed in November 2008. Currently, site preparation work is under way as the former brownfield begins its transformation process. Carson & Roberts Site Construction and Engineering, Inc., based in Lafayette, N.J., is site development contractor for the project.
Having already completed site demolition, clearing, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water main installation, as well as electric and telephone duct bank installation in late July, work currently being carried out by Carson & Roberts includes earthwork, paving, curbs, sidewalks, landscaping and site lighting.
“We have approximately 40 employees working on this job,” says John J. Roberts, co-owner of Carson & Roberts. “Our equipment fleet includes Caterpillar 345, 330, 325 and 3114 excavators, 303 mini excavator and 416 rubber tire backhoe, as well as Caterpillar IT-28 and IT-38 loaders and D8, D6 and D5 bulldozers”.
“We’re also fielding International water and site dump trucks, a Wacker trench compactor, and a Caterpillar AP 1055 paver and CB534 roller, in addition to a groundwater treatment system and holding tanks,” he says. Carson & Roberts’ subcontractors include Edison, N.J.’s Assuncao Brothers, Inc., which is responsible for curbs and sidewalks, and the Kemsco Construction and Equipment Company, Inc., of Newark, N.J., which is handling electric and telephone work. Rockborn Trucking and Excavation, Inc., headquartered in Wharton, N.J. is carrying out the paving run.
Every development project poses challenges to contractors, and several unique problems already have had had to be overcome by Carson & Roberts. “The new utilities are being installed at significant depths, and the site’s close proximity to the Passaic River and the high water table results in a significant amount of groundwater encountered during the trenching excavations,” says Roberts. “As a result, we needed to utilize several large pumps to effectively dewater the trenches. In addition, we found that the groundwater fluctuates in accordance with the tides. Knowing when low tide is and scheduling work accordingly reduces the challenges associated with ground water and trench excavations.”
“Prior to starting this construction we also took added precautions to identify and locate all the existing buried utilities. In many instances, the existing utilities were in direct conflict with the new infrastructure to be installed,” Roberts says. “We worked together with the owner and design team to quickly resolve the conflicts and eliminate any potential damage to the existing utilities.”
The Riverbend District is enhanced by its proximity to Red Bull Arena, currently under construction as the new home of the Red Bull soccer team. A key challenge was that the project had to be done in conjunction with the completion of the arena. “To meet the project’s aggressive completion date, we prepared a detailed construction schedule that allows for the logical progression of the work and helps our project managers and foremen ensure the project is always ahead of schedule,” says Roberts.
Carson & Roberts’ portion of the overall project carries an approximate $12 million price tag, funded by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the Harrison Redevelopment Agency and private sources.
Vertical construction at the Riverbend Project is slated to begin in 2011. Situated in a prime riverside location, Riverbend District is only 15 minutes by rail from New York City. Also nearby are the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the sports and entertainment venue Prudential Center, both located across the river in Newark. The Riverbend District is easily accessible via N.J. Transit, Amtrak and PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson Authority) as well as major highways in the area.
Foley service and support
Eric Cliff, customer support representative with Piscataway, N.J. based Foley, Inc., has been working with Carson & Roberts for about four years. As part of his service he carries out timely repairs to their equipment, but for this project his role is somewhat different.
“The Carson Corporation’ 345 Caterpillar excavator was repaired to bring it up to speed for this job, as they need its size and production for the work,” says Cliff. “It’s not a complete rebuild but involves replacing certain components. The job will take about 150 hours of labor.”
“Before bringing the machine to our shop, its response was extremely slow because of weak hydraulics,” he says. “The repairs brought the machine back up to Caterpillar’s specifications, giving it like-new cycle times and breakout force.”
Carson Corporation provides a full range of horizontal directional drilling and boring services. Recent jobs using this technology include the installation of 2,254 linear feet of 30-inch gas main under the Red River in Texas and 700 linear feet of 24-inch water main under a creek in southern New Jersey. More recently, the company carried out a large utility contract for Skanska USA Building at the New Meadowlands Stadium, were subcontracted by the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company to perform all site improvements associated with the Target, Best Buy and Whole Food Market in Union, N.J., and are in the process of completing a site project in Piscataway, N.J., for the Holder Construction Company, general contractor for the construction of a 300,000 square feet data center for DuPont Fabros. Other recently completed projects include Lowes in East Rutherford and East Brunswick, The Shoppes at Old Bridge and Paramus’ Garden State Plaza, all in New Jersey.
Harrison, NJ – At a time when many developers are postponing progress at their developments, Bedminster-based Advance Realty is moving ahead with construction at the Riverbend District, one of the largest brownfields mixed-use, redevelopment transit districts underway in New Jersey.
Phase I infrastructure work at the Riverbend District is already more than 50% complete. Construction and Engineering firm Carson & Roberts is responsible for all site horizontal infrastructure work at the project and is on track to complete the installation of underground utilities, sidewalks, roadways, streetlights and traffic signals in time for the opening of Red Bull Arena in spring 2010.
“Carson & Roberts will take the Riverbend District one step closer to completion with horizontal infrastructure work that supports the transformation of this previously derelict site into a vital mixed-use, urban district,” Advance Realty’s senior vice president and COO Kevin Tartaglione tells GlobeSt.com.
Phase I of the vertical construction at the Riverbend District is scheduled to begin in 2010 and will feature more than 800,000 square feet of retail space, including an anchor grocery store and retailers, a 16 screen cinema and restaurants; a 175-room hotel and a 350-room, full service hotel with 25,000 square feet of conference space; a wellness center; corporate and boutique office space; and approximately 1,900 for-sale and rental residential units.
“The redevelopment of this significant property into a vibrant, mixed-use destination is of critical importance to the town of Harrison in meeting its goals of enhanced economic development and improved quality of life for all residents,” Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough said in a statement.
According to Tartaglione, Advance is working closely with Harrison on the 80-acre site. “One of the burdens developers face is that older cities usually carried most of the infrastructure such as power and telephone lines above grade, but nearly all redevelopment projects require the power and telephone connectivity below grade,” says Tartaglione. Unfortunately, he adds, developers are being asked to cover the costs of moving infrastructure underground despite the fact it will ultimately benefit the utility company. Tartaglione would like to see the state place more of this cost burden on the utility.
For the Harrison project, the cost of moving poles below grade is between $3 and $5 million, with overall infrastructure in the $30 million range. “We have some private and public funding,” Tartaglione relates, the latter of which will go toward the Red Bull Stadium, which is located adjacent to the Riverbend site. As a transit-oriented community, the Riverbend District is near New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and an onsite PATH station that should stand to benefit from a $180-million renovation program to improve service.
In Morristown, meanwhile, utilities in the street date back 150 years in some cases, says Stephen Santola, executive vice president and general counsel at Woodmont Properties, which is working on the redevelopment of the former Epstein’s Department Store here, as well as the 36-condominium residences at Vail Mansion and the recently completed Highlands at Morristown Station. In the case of the former project, he says, “When we set out to improve the water utility, the idea was not to just get enough water to our building, but to create enough capacity in the system to help promote redevelopment in other areas of the downtown off of the water main system.” All told, Woodmont did almost $3 million in offsite improvements at the Epstein’s rehabilitation site, including significant storm water improvements and installations, water mains and sanitary sewer improvements.
Another common concern when it comes to aging infrastructure is the water pipes. “Pipes that weren’t treated and lined will begin to build up an interior from the calcium and the water and rust,” Parsippany-based Santola explains. The result: a four-inch water line can reduce in diameter to as little as three inches. “Now you’re getting even less capacity through that line than was originally planned. In some of our projects we run a camera into the sewer line to determine capacity,” he adds.
Clearly, these costs can add up quickly, a fact that is off-putting to many developers. “The development community has pitched in quite a bit already,” affirms Tom Michnewicz, vice president of development at Somerset Development in Lakewood, which is currently working on the Westmont Station in Wood-Ridge, a 70-acre brownfields redevelopment that will include a New Jersey Transit station. “The infrastructure requirements, especially on larger projects, are really a heavy lift. We try to encourage the local municipality as well as the counties and the state to pitch in.” Government entities, he adds, have the ability to float bonds, and there are many creative ways of funding infrastructure through tax increment financing or fund bond issues.