Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Constructors Inc.

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Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors Inc. takes its work personally.

By Bob Rakow

Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors Inc. takes bridge construction seriously. “Bridges don't just connect point A to point B,” the Glenmont, N.Y.-based company says. “Bridges connect families and friends. Bridges connect where we are and where we want to be. Bridges connect us with a safer tomorrow.”

Harrison & Burrowes builds, maintains, repairs and replaces bridges throughout New York. The Glenmont, N.Y.-based company works primarily with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), although it has done a few jobs outside the state, as well as some county and local projects. “We never have to venture very far,” CEO Jeff DiStefano says. “We do bridge work. That’s our sweet spot.”

Bridge work is nothing new for DiStefano, whose father, Walter, owned a highway construction company and was familiar with bridge construction. “I grew up the highway business,” DiStefano says. “It was back in the tail end of the interstate construction era.”

Abundance of Work

Harrison & Burrowes got its start doing bridge work for DiStefano’s father. “We ventured off on our own in 1980,” says DiStefano, who runs the company with his son, Chris; President Mark Klingbeil; Vice President of Project Management Steve Avveduti; and Treasurer Ann Marie Olsen-Geitner.

As NYDOT strives to reduce the numbers of deficient bridges throughout the state, there’s certainly no shortage of work for Harrison & Burrowes. The company typically works on seven to 10 state projects simultaneously, but 2016 will be an especially busy year. Three NYSDOT contracts include six bridges each, Distenano says. He expects to complete 14 of the 18 bridges before the end of the year, he says.

Projects containing multiple bridges are a new approach for NYSDOT, Distenano says. “I think it’s something new the state is taking on,” he says. “They’re bundling projects to save money.”

Experience and trust are the primary reasons Harrison & Burrowes has cultivated a solid relationship with NYSDOT, DiStefano says.

The department knows the company’s reputation for completing projects on time and on budget.

Additionally, long-term relations with NYSDOT prevent breakdowns in communication. “You want to avoid hoopla and disagreements with the state,” he says.

Harrison & Burrowes began to take on design build projects in 2010 in an effort to remain competitive. “Government design bureaus are shrinking, and they’re turning to companies with design build experts,” DiStefano explains. “All of our work is low-bid or best value.”

The company’s veteran employees are also a competitive advantage. “We have a group of guys who can work on anything New York State puts out,” DiStefano says. “We’ve worked very hard to develop a great rapport with the NYSDOT.”

Harrison and Burrowes retains its long-time employees because of the tight-knit, family atmosphere it cultivates. “We’re a company that believes in our employees,” Distenano says. “We have very little turnover. “Upper management and I understand the value of good employees.”

Historic Bridge Work

The company’s venture into nearby Vermont involved reconstruction of the historic Checkered House Bridge in Richmond. The bridge was widened from 24 to 36 feet to accommodate today’s transportation requirements, while retaining the character and history of the bridge, which was built in the 1920s, DiStefano says. Additionally, by widening the bridge, load capacity restrictions would be removed, opening up Route 2 to trucks.

Replacing the bridge would have been a less-expensive option at a cost of $9 million, but preserving history was important to the community. Additionally, federal funds paid for 80 percent of the $13 million project.

Another significant project in which Harrison and Burrowes was involved in 2008 was the 1.2-mile Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, which was built in 1889. The bridge had fallen into disrepair after carrying commuter and freight traffic 200 feet above the Hudson River. The bridge spans the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie, New York, on the east bank and Highland, New York, on the west bank.

“We worked through the winter in very difficult weather,” Distenano recalls. “The project got a lot of attention.” Part of the work involved removing a significant amount of debris that made the bridge inaccessible. Workers then repaired trusses and completed renovations to the surface of the bridge deck, which is open to pedestrian and cyclists.

The bridge also features three widened overlooks, as well as interpretive panels that include information about the bridge, the Hudson River and the region’s history.

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