W.M. Schultz Construction Inc.

WM Schultz Construction IncW.M. Schultz Construction Inc. preplans its civil projects meticulously so they can be delivered reliably in record time.

By Russ Gager

When time is of the essence on a civil construction job – and when is it not? – W.M. Schultz Construction Inc. is the general contractor to call. For one recent bridge replacement, W.M. Schultz Construction completed the job in just 26 days, two days ahead of schedule.

The $2.15 million replacement of the VT Route 30 bridge in Castleton, Vt., was complicated by the fact that the bridge extended over the Clarendon and Pittsford Railroad and required demolition of the existing bridge while both passenger and freight trains ran uninterrupted under the construction site. An additional challenge was that 1,100 lineal feet of railroad track had to be lowered to permit trains with containers stacked double-high to proceed under the bridge, which previously they were unable to do.

Fortunately, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) decided to completely close down the bridge during construction rather than maintain traffic flow. “This is the type of job that plays to our strength as a company, because it involved intense preplanning,” Vice President of Construction Dave Rakvica declares. “Once you build your 28-day shutdown, you have to have all your proverbial ducks in a row.”

Subcontractor H.B. Fleming Inc. of South Portland, Maine, drove steel sheet pile to protect the railroad tracks and provide embankment support during construction. The new bridge structure is supported on driven H-piles and uses precast concrete components for both the abutments and bridge deck. The deck was constructed of New England Extreme Tee (NEXT) beams supplied by J.P. Carrara and Sons Inc., Middlebury, Vt. Once the new bridge was completed, the existing railroad track was lowered during short-term daily shutdowns to mitigate impacts to the active railroad facility over a 14-day shutdown period.

W.M. Schultz Construction finished the project ahead of schedule and earned an incentive bonus. “It really involved a [critical path method] CPM schedule that was almost hour-by-hour based on our experience on a previous VTrans project,” Rakvica says.

The previous project involved construction of four bridges over the same stream that wound down a mountainside on Route 73 in Rochester, Vt. Three of the bridges were precast and all were built on an accelerated schedule involving short-term road closures. The remaining bridge over the White River had a conventional plate girder design.

“We planned the Castleton bridge right down to the minute and were able to be very successful,” Rakvica continues. “Things don’t always go 100 percent as planned, as well. If you have a well-thought-out plan, you’re able to get over hurdles. Through the efforts of Project Manager Kevin Ture and his team, we ended up finishing the project two days ahead of schedule to earn an incentive bonus on the project.”

Railroad Shutdowns

Over the 14-day period during which the railroad track was being lowered, short-term shutdowns were coordinated with the railroad to take out small sections of track at a time. “We would pull a section of track up to do the excavation, put in new railroad ballast at a lower excavation, put things back together, tamp things down and move out of the way,” Rakvica explains. “Approximately, two to three trains would run every single day. You might have a six- or eight-hour window that you could work. Once you got that window, you went to town to get the track down and have it back and operational every single day. If a train were to derail, you’d have tremendous problems, so there were huge liabilities on the contract to get this right.”

W.M. Schultz self-performed most of the project except for the track work that was performed by SK Enterprises LLC. Schultz utilized as many as 15 employees working multiple shifts supervised by Project Managers Kevin Ture and assisted by Project Manager Mike Garn. “The guys did work some long 15-hour shifts to get the work done,” Rakvica concedes. “We had some night work going on, but we tried to minimize it as best we could. We had planned that job to expend a significant amount of overtime.”

Rakvica praises the Schultz team for the success of the project. “The extreme dedication and planning of the entire team really showed its stars and stripes on this project,” he says. “They overcame some remarkable obstacles. To watch this thing come together in the blink of an eye – 28 days and then a subsequent 14-day shutdown of the railroad – and then walk away, that’s really a remarkable feat when you compare how owners and contractors used to approach the work in prior years, which inconvenienced the public for many months.”

Water Project

Another challenging project W.M. Schultz Construction built recently was a water infrastructure improvement project in Bennington, Vt., much of which was built on an active college campus known as Southern Vermont College. The purpose of the $2.44 million south end water system upgrades was to get the campus onto the public water supply system and increase water pressure in the town.

The project was constructed during the summer college recess, but several aspects of it had to be coordinated with the college, because the campus was very active with students and personnel throughout the project. An important element of the project was the construction of a 750,000-gallon, ground-mounted precast concrete water tank, which was built on the campus property in a forested area behind the historic Everett Mansion that is used for the university’s administrative offices and special events.

“We had to blast into rock in the mountainside to accommodate this cast-in-place concrete tank,” Rakvica says. “The blasting was carefully coordinated, because the site was less than 500 feet away from the historic Everett Mansion. Once the excavation was to grade, our specialty subcontractor, DN Tanks, cast the sections of the tank onsite and then erected them into their final position.”

Several water upgrades included installation of 2,500 feet of potable water services to various campus buildings, along with installation of 4,400 linear feet of ductile water main 10 inches in diameter throughout the campus to the town water supply. Other work included a new booster pumping station, which also was built on campus grounds.

The project was started in the spring of 2015 after college let out and was completed this past fall. “It was an aggressive schedule, but we were able to complete it on time,” Rakvica says. W.M. Schultz self-performed most of the work with an average of six employees working on the project under the supervision of Project Manager Robert Woodruff, who also coordinated the specialty subcontractors.

“It was a well-planned effort by the Schultz team to bring together the various necessary disciplines,” Rakvica says. “The town of Bennington, the college and design engineer were great to work with, as all stakeholders worked well together to bring this project to a successful conclusion. Through a lot of open and honest discussion with all parties, we were able to overcome some small obstacles on the job to have a very successful project.”

Water Treatment

Another project involving water infrastructure was performed by W.M. Schultz in Holyoke, Mass. The focus of this $2.79 million project was to build an addition onto the existing water department’s facilities for the installation of an ultraviolet (UV) disinfection treatment facility for the city’s raw water supply, which was provided by an open-air reservoir. W.M. Schultz built the concrete and masonry addition and installed the piping, instrumentation, UV disinfection and a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

“This is our second UV disinfection project we’ve completed,” Rakvica says. “Our first exposure to UV disinfection was a wastewater treatment plant in Rensselaer County, N.Y. However, this project was our first UV drinking water supply project that we’ve done.”

The addition was started in spring 2015 and completed in November. “This project had to be done in a very short time period – a 180-day schedule,” Rakvica recalls. “It seems to be the theme here. We had to really preplan and focus on project safety to get these projects done in a relatively short period of time. It was basically using our experience in really coming up with a very buildable schedule, adhering to it and doing a lot of preplanning to meet ownership milestones.”

Despite some tough rock excavation, Schultz utilized its “dig-n-rip” bucket to mechanically remove the fractured rock along with some hoe ramming. The masonry block addition was constructed in place on the top of a cast-in-place concrete basement.

Rakvica estimates that W.M. Schultz self-performed approximately 70 percent of the project including the site work, the cast-in-place concrete construction, and the process piping installation. Project Manager Ed Shull utilized his many years of expertise in the water infrastructure industry, supervising approximately 12 subcontractors and six to eight Schultz employees. Among the tasks performed by the subcontractors was installation of the doors, windows, electrical and building ventilation equipment.

Emergency Response

W.M. Schultz Construction also performs civil construction tasks on an emergency basis in the central New York region known as Region 2 for the New York State Department of Transportation. If a landslide covers a road or a culvert is plugged up and needs to be replaced, W.M. Schultz employees respond as required on short notice – sometimes in inclement weather, if necessary – to make the repair without any contract drawings.

“You never know what you’re going to get into,” Rakvica notes. “Mother Nature definitely plays a major role in this ‘where-and-when’ work, as stormwater or snowmelt deteriorate or destroy the existing transportation infrastructure.”

The company’s regular projects are located mainly in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. “From our perspective, we’re a very proactive, safety-oriented company,” Rakvica stresses. “Every day, we do a flex-and-stretch program for all of our employees at our morning tailgate meetings. It’s really geared toward employee awareness and the reduction of soft tissue injuries. A construction worker is really an athlete in a sense, and they drive to their location in a car all cramped up, and then are expected to pop out and perform at a high caliber. The flex-and-stretch program has really helped reduce our soft tissue injuries by up to a third and creates a greater awareness of safety at the beginning of each day.”

As its work force ages, W.M. Schultz is seeking the next generation of employees. “Getting younger workers is a challenge,” Rakvica says. “We as an industry need to be proactive in promoting our great industry. Most people don’t recognize that the construction industry is the largest industry in the U.S. by far – and we’re struggling to get the next generation of talent that wants to work with their hands and create great things for future generations to use. This industry offers really fantastic opportunities for the next generation, providing great-paying jobs for young people that like to go outside and do hands-on work.” 

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