Hazard Construction Company
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Eric Colby
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Few general engineering contractors in the greater San Diego area can offer clients the diversity of construction experience and expertise as Hazard Construction Company (Hazard) possess in-house. For well over eight decades Hazard has been building a name throughout San Diego and beyond, building thousands of miles of interstate freeways, bridges and roadways throughout southern California.
The company’s project management staff, crews and equipment can handle a range of heavy civil construction from small parking lot paving to subdivisions and complete thoroughfare interchange construction. Serving the needs of private clients, Hazard has delved into everything from site construction to development of commercial, residential and industrial projects.
Over the years, Hazard has grown to serve a range of public agencies as well, including Cal Trans and various municipalities within the San Diego metropolitan. “Before the 2008 bust we were doing about 80 percent private and 20 percent public works,” measures Jason Mordhorst, now president of Hazard. “When the recession hit all of the private money dried up and our markets flip-flopped; now we do about 20 percent private and 80 percent public projects.”
Part of San Diego’s history
Although the company’s diversity has allowed it to shift between markets over the years, Hazard has always been a part of San Diego’s history. “The company was founded in 1926 by Roscoe Elwood “Pappy” Hazard Sr., as the R.E. Hazard Contracting Company,” tells Mordhorst.
An entrepreneur at heart, Pappy bought a fleet of trucks and wagons with nearly every available horse and mule in the region. He began a hauling, excavation and site construction business which helped shape early San Diego.
Hazard’s first office was headquartered in downtown San Diego and the company performed road construction and excavation throughout the area, including the grading and paving of much of Rancho Santa Fe. Pappy’s eldest son, Bruce R. Hazard, entered his father’s business in 1935 at the age of 17. He quickly learned the ropes of the business by working in the field and observing his father’s techniques. “For many years the company remained a family-owned operation as Pappy passed Hazard down to his son,” tells Mordhorst.
During the peak of the Great Depression, Hazard expanded into concrete block manufacturing, moving to a 42-acre site off Highway 163 in Mission Valley, known as “The Brickyard.” At the height, the manufacturing plant was producing as many as 400 different varieties of block and brick.
In the 1950s, Hazard teamed up with W.F. Maxwell Inc., a bridge and concrete structure specialist. Together, the two companies landed multimillion-dollar contracts for major portions of Interstate 5, 15, 805 and more. In the early 1960s, Bruce assumed full ownership and expanded Hazard’s involvement in major freeway, road, commercial and subdivision construction. In 1985, W.F. Maxwell was purchased by Hazard to further expand the firm’s in-house bridge building expertise.
Over the course of 88 years, Hazard has evolved into a full-service general engineering contracting firm and has shaped a great deal of the infrastructure that makes up modern day San Diego and the Imperial Valley.
“Hazard was purchased from the founding family in 1998 by our now chairman of the board, Dave Randal,” says Mordhorst. “Today, Hazard is no longer family owned, but owned by a family of private business partners that all still live and work here to this day, including executive vice president, Bill Rogers and Charlie White, senior vice president of operations.”
Heavy on the public side
Now that the economy is in recovery mode post-recession, Mordhorst says Hazard has relied on its public sector niche, while still maintaining some residential subdivision projects. “Right now there’s more public work,” he says. “We’re able to shift back and forth and I think that’s our biggest reason for success through both lean and boom times.”
Recently, Mordhorst says Hazard has been hard at work for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA). “The Port Authority and the SDCRAA used to be one, but then they split, so there’s been a mass amount of money spent to pull parking off port land and put it onto airport land,” he explains. “We’re doing paving projects like crazy – we’ve probably completed nearly 30 acres of parking lots over the last three years.”
Hazard is currently working on an access road or terminal link road to make rental car facilities more accessible to travelers from the San Diego Airport. “The terminal link road will connect to a multilevel parking structure, similar to what you see in Las Vegas; it’s a big hub of activity,” expands Mordhorst. “The San Diego Airport is actually the busiest single-runway airport in the country so the road and structure are much needed, as opposed to having the facilities spread all throughout the bay.”
Crossing the bridge in high-profile projects
In another project aimed at making travel in and out of San Diego easier, Hazard is performing site work and construction management an airport terminal and first-ever international pedestrian bridge. “We broke ground on this unique, first-of-its-kind project about six months ago,” details Mordhorst. “Most travelers in San Diego have to go to L.A. to fly internationally, but with the opening of the first border crossing pedestrian bridge from the U.S. side into Tijuana, people can drive to a much closer departure area.”
“Travelers can safely park their cars on the U.S. side, go through customs on the U.S. side and then cross over into Tijuana, Mexico, to board,” explains Mordhorst. But before construction could take place the site needed a presidential permit from both governments. “We’ve been doing the construction management on this job for quite some time,” adds Mordhorst.
Back on U.S. soil, Hazard has four projects on the books with Cal Trans, California’s state Department of Transportation. “Cal Trans is easily one of our top customers and we’re getting started on a range of paving, widening and interchange work,” shares Mordhorst.
In the Imperial Valley, the $12 million Dogwood Interchange is slated to transform the area’s main thoroughfare, making room for new reconfigured ramps and lanes to ease commuter congestion. “We’re also adding an auxiliary lane on I-805 in Chula Vista and there’s a safety project in Oceanside where Hazard is installing a three-mile concrete barrier rail,” details Mordhorst. “In total there’s approximately $25 million in ongoing work for Cal Trans.”
Keeping up confidence
This heavy backlog is a nice change from the slower years coming out of the recession. “In 2008, we nearly cut in half,” tells Mordhorst. “We cut down on overhead and tried to project what kind of work would be out there and somehow we remained mostly profitable the whole time.”
Profitable, yes, but Mordhorst says the company went from doing $5 to $20 million range bread and butter work to $200,000 to $5 million scopes. “But now I’m confident in our backlog; it looks good,” he measures. “We’re fortunate to have more large projects coming up. In fact, we’re starting on five or so in the $6 to $15 million range now and they’re going to be long running jobs.”
But after 88 years running, including the Great Depression and more recent recession, there isn’t much Hazard hasn’t pulled through. Relying on a diverse set of engineering and contracting expertise, Hazard Construction Company has positioned itself as greater San Diego’s choice heavy civil contractor.
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