Remaining Busy: Blalock and Sons Shows Why It's the Go-To Contractor in Road Work
Construction Today, February 2011, pg. 72
As a project manager for 13 years at Charles Blalock and Sons Inc., Chad Woodroof has rarely seen a project his company can't handle. Although stubborn, rocky soils might be a barrier to some construction contractors, Blalock and Sons can excavate, blast and pave its way to a successful job completion.
“We’re pretty capable of self-performing most of our own work,” says Woodroof, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering while working for a Nashville, Tenn., construction firm during college. “Whether it’s relocating underground utilities, heavy earth-moving work, concrete placement, paving or any major component of private foundation construction or highway construction, we have the resources to deliver what our clients need.”
The company does not construct upright building structures. But it will, however, lay the foundation, install the utilities, build the bridge and pave the road to its front door—and that goes for any type of project. Whether it’s private or government work, Blalock and Sons can transition from one type of job to another, a necessary ability in a struggling economy.
“In order to stay busy, we’ll go after what’s available,” Woodruff says. “If everything that comes out is private, we will take on any private work. We’ll manage anything within our expertise.”
Blalock and Sons is in the midst of two major road-widening projects in east Tennessee for client Tennessee Department of Transportation. Both jobs concern a stretch of State Route 66 between I-40 and downtown Sevierville. Blalock is the project’s general contractor.
This section of Route 66—also known as the Great Smoky Mountains Parkway—has been congestion-prone for the past 15 years. But with a boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), that problem will begin to ease up when the work is completed in 2012.
The ARRA is funding 99 percent of the first phase of the project, which is a 4.2-mile stretch starting from Sevierville and traveling to State Route 338, also known as Boyds Creek Highway. Construction began in July 2009 to widen the road from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in each direction, with a full 12-foot shoulder on each side. The $38 million phase is expected for completion in November 2011.
In its second phase, which is funded by the state and not the ARRA, Blalock and Sons will perform the same work on a 2.5-mile stretch from I-40 to State Route 139, the Douglas Dam Road. This $23.3 million portion began in August and is set for completion in 2012.
As of December 2010, Blalock and Sons had paved the inside lanes, installed storm drains and new gas lines, placed fill material and base stone, and constructed sections of curbs and gutters for the first phase. For the second-phase work, the company was continuing its clearing operations, placing rock and dirt fill along the north and southbound lanes of State Route 66 and excavating cut-slope along the southbound side of the route.
Blalock and Sons thus far has met challenges typical for this type of work. “Every job has its own differences,” Woodroof says. “I’ve been doing jobs of this magnitude for a long time and the relocation is always the toughest challenge. You’ve got to relocate the electric lines, communication cables, underground sanitary sewers, and water and gas lines.”
As with any job of this magnitude, there is no way of avoiding service disruptions to businesses and homeowners in the nearby area. Woodroof notes, however that there are ways to limit it, such as by performing cable work during off-peak hours and relocating water lines at night when restaurants are closed and most people are asleep.
But within a couple of years, the minimal disruptions will all have been worth it when commuters can finally travel on a jam-free Route 66. For the state, this means that the main passage into the popular tourist cities of Sevierville, Pigeon forge and Gatlinburg will be safer and easier to travel. The work also will benefit the 8 million people who each year visit the Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited nation park in the country.