Case Studies

Northern Construction Service LLC

Protecting the Public and the Environment

From rebuilding a storm ravaged road to relocating a historic New England lighthouse, Northern Construction Service LLC (NCS) has been committed to protecting the public and the environment through quality workmanship. The Massachusetts-based general contractor specializes in bridge construction, site work, marine construction, concrete work and utilities. NCS has built a solid reputation for thorough, organized service throughout its home state, as well as Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont.

The company was established in 1994 by partners John Rahkonen and John DiVito. “I’ve been in the industry since I was 10 years old,” share Rahkonen. “Unlike some people in the business, my father or grandfather didn’t own a construction company; I had only my experience to rely on. I knew I always wanted to own my own company, so John and I started NCS from pretty much nothing.”

A Trusted Team Winning Over Repeat Business

Starting from scratch, NCS has emerged as a regional leader in New England with 120 employees and two locations; one in Palmer and the other in Weymouth, Mass. “Every day, we go to work determined to protect the public and the environment,” shares Rahkonen. “This was true when NCS started and it’s still true today. We have forged strong and longstanding relationships with project owners and engineers through excellent communication and fully understanding their concerns.”

Rahkonen says the company’s growth is a result of an outstanding workforce. “Our people truly make the difference,” he explains. “We have a great deal of long-term employees who have been with NCS since the beginning.”

From the start, NCS’s employees and their unique talents have been the driving force in creating a company with the reputation for creative solutions and a finished product that’s built to last. “We have many clients who have used our services repeatedly throughout the years, as well as referring us to others,” shares Rahkonen. “We embrace challenging projects, allowing our employees to utilize their skills and we take great pride in that.”

The Infrastructure Experts for Speedy Turnarounds

Today, NCS has grown to serve federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as private industrial and utility organizations. “We’re pre-qualified with numerous agencies and we maintain excellent relationships with many engineering companies,” notes Rahkonen.

The company has become one of the region’s go-to infrastructure general contractors, from bridges and roadways to airports. “We specialize in everything besides buildings and we focus on more difficult jobs,” adds Rahkonen. “For the most part, we’re serving public clients.”

Rahkonen goes on to note that NCS recently finished a bridge replacement and rehabilitation in Chicopee, Mass. “We were given 36 months to complete the Davitt Bridge and we had everything done in just 14 months,” he says proudly. The work was originally expected to be complete in August 2014; however, crews worked 10 hour days, six days a week to help speed up the work. When all was said and done, the $8.2 million reconstruction, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, was wrapped up more than one year ahead of schedule.

When the 62-year-old Manhan Bridge in Easthampton, Mass., was deemed structurally deficient and added to the state’s short list of accelerated bridge projects, NCS was contracted to reopen the $3.75 million bridge in just 180 days. Utilizing precast, pre-stressed concrete deck T-beams, a construction process that reduces the amount of time required to complete such a job, NCS had the project up and going at lightning speed.

The beams were built and cured off-site, and trucked in for installation, allowing NCS to near the finish line sooner than expected. “If we failed to deliver on time, we would have faced daily fines of more than $3,300 for each additional day of work,” reveals Rahkonen.

All in all, NCS not only hit its deadline for completion, the company delivered the Manhan Bridge five weeks earlier than the Massachusetts Transportation Department anticipated. Transportation officials originally said the bridge would be closed for six months, from June to December. However, NCS completed the bulk of the work in just over four months. The project received praise from the city’s mayor to local business owners; some who, according to Rahkonen, claimed the closure hurt their bottom lines and were grateful for the speedy delivery.

Award-winning Design and Construction

NCS has built a reputation for accelerating complex projects on tight timelines with precision and veteran skill. Now, the company can also add award-winning design and construction to its list of accomplishments. “We recently won the Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association under the category of disaster-emergency construction for the $9.5 million Smithfield, R.I., Bridge,” notes Rahkonen.

The Stillwater Viaduct over the Woonasquatucket River in Smithfield is a landmark of one of the state’s early attempts at automobile infrastructure. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for historical association and the massive bridge building campaign in the area through the 1920s and 1930s, the Smithfield Bridge serves as an example of an open spandrel arch bridge.

Due to its historical significance, the rehabilitation in 2012 required particular caution in order to maintain the original design aesthetics. “Precast concrete design allowed our team and the engineers to seamlessly replicate the original features of the bridge with a high-performance solution that will stand the test of time,” details Rahkonen.

Incorporating precast also assisted in an accelerated schedule. NCS’s team replaced the severely deteriorated superstructure with precast concrete stringers, pier caps, floor and spandrel beams at the arch span, as well as fascia beams with cantilevered brackets and decorative bridge rail with spindles. The deck stands 8 inches-thick cast-in-place concrete with a waterproofing membrane followed by 3 inches of asphalt overlay.

The existing arch rings and pier columns were also restored during construction, including patch renovating arch ribs and pier columns, replacing tops of existing pier columns to improve seismic performance. “One of the major accomplishments on the project was the production, shipping and erection of the slender precast beams,” shares Bob Slaw, president of Slaw Precast, the precast contractor on the Smithfield Bridge project. “To control cracking, and increase stiffness of the longer units during shipping and erection, high-strength concrete in excess of 8,000-pounds-per-square-inch was utilized and pre-stressed stands were added.”

Once on site, contractors erected the beams with tandem picks, relying on strategic crane placement to situate the beams. Despite massive rework and a short time frame, the bridge was completed in just seven months and reopened to commuters – again – a full month ahead of schedule.

With a track record of projects running ahead of schedule, Rahkonen says the company never sacrifices the safety of its team. “Safety is our first priority for our employees and clients,” he adds. “We maintain a vigorous safety program, which includes weekly site visits by independent safety consultants, OSHA training, weekly toolbox talks, direct job safety briefs and a fleet safety program.”

Rahkonen says the next step is fostering this culture in NCS’s younger employees. “We’re fortunate to come through this recession and although there’s an unreasonable amount of new regulations pushing down on us, we’re doing our best to adapt,” he reveals. “We’re currently in a transition period where we are allowing our younger staff more responsibility.”

The year 2014 marks 20 years in business for Northern Construction Service LLC, and Rahkonen and DiVito envision more of the same: a time-tested commitment to protecting the public and the environment through New England’s most efficient scheduling and project delivery.

Published on: August 5, 2014

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