Case Studies

Southland Contracting Inc.

Finding Success Deep Underground
  • Written by: Southland Contracting Inc.
  • Produced by: Southland Contracting Inc.
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Frank Renda, Tim Winn and Rudy Renda spent 15 years accumulating a wealth of experience in underground tunneling at Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. in Roanoke, Texas. The trio ventured out on its own in 2005 and acquired Southland Contracting Inc. (SCI), reinforcing the company’s efforts to become a major force in tunnel excavation and wet utility installation on a national scale. Charlie Griffith established the company in 1981, and his son Clay Griffith (who joined SCI shortly after its founding) remains at the company even today.

Throughout Clay’s time at the company, SCI has managed to successfully deliver every project it signed on to, completing over 800,000 linear feet of tunnel along the way. SCI continues to leverage its extensive expertise and in-house manufacturing capabilities to produce some of the most reliable and advanced tunnel boring machines on the market to provide unique solutions to challenging ground conditions.

The SCI team operates with a total of 30 units operating in 20 states, led from its headquarters and manufacturing shop in Fort Worth, Texas, and smaller regional support branches in Maryland, New York, California and Las Vegas, Nev. SCI has now completed 290 projects and showcases over $1.3 billion of work in its portfolio.

“Our ability to complete a lot of in-house manufacturing is one of our greatest advantages,” asserts Tim Winn, principal and director of SCI. The quality of SCI’s tunnel boring machines (TBMs) is a direct reflection of the SCI team’s expertise, which includes work in hard rock, soft ground, micro tunneling, earth pressure balance and slurry tunnel boring. SCI also provides specialty services like drilling, blasting, shield excavation, road header excavation, deep and bored shaft excavation, plus New Austrian Tunneling, a method that is neither new nor particularly unique to Austria but relies upon the stress of the surrounding rock mass to stabilize the tunnel.

Flexible, Mobile

SCI scales up its labor force as needed given the amount of work underway at any point, with its workforce’s headcount fluctuating between 500 and 700 employees in recent years, by Winn’s estimates. The company works primarily in the public sector with agencies at the municipal, state and federal level, and self-performs as much of the job as possible, regularly subbing out only electrical and instrumentation.

“Everyone was affected in some way by the economic downturn, and it certainly put pressures on pricing in our industry,” admits Winn. “Instead of downsizing, though, we decided to broaden our focus and reach out into different markets.” SCI expanded its market presence geographically in addition to focusing its energies on the transportation market.

As a result, the SCI team has managed to position itself as a prime choice for a host of underground utility projects around the country. SCI crews were enlisted to help out at the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 project, located roughly 600 miles outside of Las Vegas. The project will help secure Las Vegas’ future water supply by creating a new intake tunnel to channel water to southern Nevada from Lake Mead, the body of water created behind the Hoover Dam. SCI began work in 2009 with a contract of roughly $45 million to build a 35-foot diameter tunnel access shaft some 450 vertical feet deep into the ground. Crews also installed 2,500 linear feet of mined tunnel ranging from 14 feet to 16 feet in diameter.

Further east, the SCI broke ground in 2010 on the East Side Water Supply Project for the Monroe County Water Authority in Monroe, N.Y. The project add 13 miles of new water mains, two pumping stations and a water treatment plant to draw raw water from Lake Ontario for use in Monroe County, N.Y., alleviating the region’s reliance on water reservoirs. SCI came onto the project specifically to construct 6,000 linear feet of 10-foot diameter intake tunnels, 5,000 linear feet of which runs underneath Lake Ontario. The company will also install an outfall structure, an intake crib structure, a riser well for future screening equipment, pump adits for future pumping equipment, and the piping and supports for chemical additions and sampling efforts to the water.

Working Together

Also in 2010 SCI formed a joint venture with California-based Tutor Perini Corporation to oversee work on the $226 million New Irvington Tunnel project for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Crews will essentially construct a new water transmission tunnel running 3.5 miles parallel to the existing Irvington Tunnel in Freemont, Calif.

The new tunnel secures water supply from the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System to over 2.1 million people in San Francisco, the South Bay Area and parts of Alameda County, Calif. The existing tunnel dates back to 1934 and the new Irvington Tunnel will ensure water supply even in the wake of a major seismic event. The New Irvington Tunnel project aims to be completed in early 2014 and the SCI team achieved a major milestone in summer 2012 when crews drilling from opposite ends finally broke through to meet and shake with one another after a full 13 months of drilling.

Despite these impressive successes, the SCI team has no plans to slow down. “I feel that the country has some significant infrastructural needs that are likely to be addresses in the next few years,” explains Winn, who names the transportation side of tunnel work as an area that offers much potential. Wherever the next tunneling project lies in the next few years, SCI will be able to position itself strategically to leverage over 30 years of industry experience and diversely talented team of professionals to ensure Southland Contracting Inc. continues to deliver every project as promised.

Published on: March 13, 2013

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