Woolwich’s Reed & Reed Keeps Building Up Maine After 81 Years

Fri May 08, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams




By Jay Adams

CEG CORRESPONDENT

On Sept. 20, 2008, many of the 3,300 residents of Norridgewock, Maine, a small town located some 90 mi. northwest of Portland on the bend of the Kennebec River, walked across their old bridge physically, and symbolically, one last time.

On the bitterly cold morning of Jan. 15, Reed & Reed Inc., general contractors of Woolwich, Maine, opened the new 650-ft. (198 m) temporary detour bridge it built over the Kennebec River in Norridgewock until the new bridge is in place. Reed & Reed designed and built this two-lane structure to carry traffic while the new bridge is built on the existing alignment.

Reed & Reed, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2008, recognized on that symbolic September day that the Norridgewock Bridge wasn’t just about steel and concrete and pilings, but about community. The company’s owners know this, because the four generations who have run the company are a part of it.

“Over our 80 years we have several generations of the same family members working for us,” said Reed & Reed CEO Jackson Parker, of his 200 employees. “We’ve got one fellow, Ernie, a carpenter foreman, who takes winters off and comes back every spring. He’s 72 years old and runs circles around people half his age. He came on in 1982, when I did.

“One of our superintendents is second generation. His father started with us in the late 40s, early 50s. One of his brothers worked for us. That particular family has worked for us for over 60 years,” added Parker.

Bridging Generations

The 81-year-old Norridgewock Bridge connects Norridgewock to Madison, Maine, over the Kennebec River, along Route 201A. It was very old. Too old to carry the trucks that routinely nicked its cracked concrete and drove off. But it also was part of the fabric of the town it serves.

Reed & Reed knows well the symbolism of keeping traditions, while installing something new; making a new bridge that will accommodate bigger trucks and more cars, all the while allowing for bikers, horses and snowmobiles to ride alongside.

And it’s not just new; it’s remarkably new. When work on the new bridge is finished at the end of 2011, Reed & Reed will have put up only the second one of this kind of bridge in the whole country, featuring twin-concrete arches that will tower 85 ft. (26 m) above the Kennebec River.

According to Ted Clark, senior project manager, the contract to replace it was awarded in June 2008 and work onsite began in July 2008. Clark said the new bridge will be constructed in the location of the existing bridge.

“A 650-foot-long temporary bridge has been constructed downstream. It will be used during construction of the new bridge,” said Clark.

Reed & Reed’s $21.5 million contract with the Maine DOT includes the temporary detour, demolition of the existing multi-span bridge and construction of a new concrete tied arch bridge with a main span of 300 ft. (91 m). The unique design will echo the concrete arches of the existing bridge and will be the only one of its kind east of the Continental Divide. (The other is in Oregon.)

Upon opening the temporary detour, Reed & Reed crews immediately began removing the existing bridge, which includes four concrete arch spans as well as several shorter approach spans on each end. Crews installed temporary falsework under the spans, demolished the arches and then the deck system.

“We moved traffic onto the detour bridge in January,” added Clark. “We constructed falsework under the existing concrete arch spans to contain debris from falling into the river. As of [March 18], the four concrete arch spans are removed.”

Reed & Reed has two 25-man crews installing two deep cofferdams to build the river piers. Then, after the abutments are complete, the 130-ft. (40 m) end spans will be constructed before work begins on the main span. After the arches, longitudinal tie beam and precast floor beams are in place, crews will cast the concrete deck in place.

The concrete piers will be supported on 2,400 linear ft. (731.5 m) of 24-in. (61 cm) diameter pipe piles. The pipe piles will be drilled through a 12-ft. (3.7 m) thick concrete seal and into bedrock. The pipe will be cleaned out and a 10-ft. (3 m) deep rock socket will be drilled into the bedrock. Rock socket and pipe will be filled with reinforced concrete.

The abutments will be supported on 3,800 linear ft. (1,158 m) of H-piles.

The 17,000 sq. ft. (1,579 sq m) of 3-in. (7.6 cm) thick precast concrete deck panels will be installed on top of the beams, to form for the cast-in-place concrete bridge deck.

The company expects to complete this unique and challenging project before the contract completion date of Oct. 1, 2011. When finished, the new bridge will be about twice as wide as the current, crumbling bridge, with two 12-ft. (3.7 m) travel lanes, a 5-ft. (1.5 m) sidewalk and another 7-ft. (2.1 m), multi-use lane to ride bikes, carriages or the occasional steed in summer, to ATVs and snowmobiles in winter.

317-Foot Crane

Changing with the times is a staple for Reed & Reed.

Just last year, in February 2008, Reed & Reed took delivery of its first Manitowoc M-16000, a 440-ton (399 t) crawler crane designed especially for erecting wind turbines. That crane was put into service right away erecting 38 wind turbines at the Stetson Mountain Wind Project in Danforth, Maine.

Now, less than a year later, the company has taken delivery of its second brand new M-16000 crane. It is a carbon copy of the first one, weighing in at a svelte 932,000 lbs. (422,748 kg) and reaching 317 ft. (97 m) in the air.

“Our crews climb the towers every day. It’s very safe. Each of the towers has interior ladders with built-in fall protection including vertical static lines, a grabber device and, of course, all personnel wear full body harnesses,” said Parker. “These towers happen to be in three sections. At each junction, there is a landing and a floor, where you can rest. So, it’s very safe. There is a 100 percent tie off.

“The outside wall of the tower is about 5 feet high above the landing, so it provides its own barricade,” he added. “The only thing they complain about is how many trips they have to make each day. It’s a long way up, 275-foot vertical climbs.”

With this new crane, Reed & Reed is the only New England based contractor owning not just one, but two of these impressive machines.

“We purchased the first crane and had it delivered up to Stetson Mountain and we used it to erect 38 turbines there,” added CEO Parker. “We have a number of projects on the books for Maine and New Hampshire and we could see that one crane would not be adequate to respond to our clients’ needs.”

New Wind Turbines

This newest crane, ordered in June 2008, is being deployed to Kibby Mountain where Reed & Reed will erect 44 Vestas V-90 turbines, each of which will produce 3 mw of clean, renewable electricity when the project is completed in 2010. Reed & Reed is investing heavily to provide the necessary resources to service its clients’ needs, the company said.

“The project is about 5 miles from the Canadian border. Trans-Canada owns the project. It includes a lot of road work, 18 to 20 miles of roads, spread over two ridge lines, and there will be 22 turbines on each of those ridges, a total of 44 turbines generating power,” said Parker. “Some of the terrain is over 3,000 feet (in altitude) and considered an alpine environment. It is colder. The wind blows hard, as you would expect. We had snow up there in early September. It was 60, 70 degrees down here, snowing up there.

“We put in several foundations last fall before winter drove us out. Sargent Corporation out of Stillwater, Maine, is doing the site work,” added Parker. “Someone said they had more than 20 excavators on the project last fall. They had a lot of heavy iron up there.”

Reed & Reed Inc. is a northern New England general contractor. Founded as a bridge building firm in 1928 by Captain Josiah W. Reed and his son, Carlton Day Reed, the company is now run by its fourth generation of Reeds. Parker said Reed & Reed is very sensitive to the needs of the people of Maine, which it has served since the days of Herbert Hoover, but that the company also recognizes that change creates opportunity and how a company anticipates and changes with the times ensures its survival in rough economic times.

“There are always people who don’t like change, like the turbines blocking their view. What I say to them is, we can either take incremental steps to reduce greenhouse gases and save the environment, or, do nothing, and in a few generations be looking at a bare mountain with no trees on it,” said Parker.

Finding Great Talent

Anticipating change has kept Reed & Reed thriving.

“It’s now our 81st year. One of the things that I did, when we celebrated our 75th anniversary, was look through old construction reports and look at the companies we used to bid against. Most of those companies are gone. It’s not just an accident that we managed to survive,” said Parker.

“Changing with the times is essential. We have always been conservatively run, but the secret is attracting great talent and longtime employees. It’s a people business and if you don’t have the talent, you won’t make it.

“We stretch ourselves, beyond the norm, and create a culture and opportunity for great people to do great things,” he said. “Every time we take on new challenges, it encourages me to stretch a little further and every time, our people respond. It amazes me what they do.”

Parker said that gross revenues in 2008 for Reed & Reed were a fraction under $90 million.

Parker said, that, again, it’s the ability to mix the old with the new, like giant cranes to create new wind turbines and replacing a crumbling symbol in Norridgewock.

“Maine, well, we are sort of at the end of the economic and geographical pipeline. We’re isolated. To our credit, we’ve identified an opportunity for renewable energy and people are lining up behind us,” said Parker. “Maine is ahead of other states in the region. It’s an opportunity for the state of Maine to make a difference and I’m very proud that we are able to play such an important part in that.”

Another key is recognizing that markets will always change and fortunes can always be reversed. Parker offered an anecdote involving a real estate legend from the Boston area as an example.

“In the late 1980s, there was a real estate boom, condos, you name it, were selling like hotcakes for a while. We did some work in South Portland. We built the marina, moved some old structures, installed some piling, about a $1 million contract,” laughed Parker. “We got to the end of the job, and the market had collapsed. They couldn’t sell any units and they didn’t have the money to pay us. They wanted to give us a condo, valued at about $300,000.”

“We went around, and around and around. We finally did get paid, a couple of years later,” said Parker. “And a few years later, that person bought the Los Angeles Dodgers for $400 million. So, his fortunes turned around.”

For more information, visit www.reed-reed.com