Massive paving project reveals company culture at Journey Group

This piece is presented by Journey Group.

It’s not often that a homeowner living through a massive road project raves about the experience.

But that’s what Pam Homan will do if you ask about living through 18 months of construction outside her new Hartford home.

“We chose the site in the country because there was pavement and we would not have to deal with gravel roads. Life was going to be great,” she said.

The problem was, the pavement was less than great. Minnehaha County Highway 149 was in bad shape and had to be entirely reconstructed. It meant two seasons of work and challenging conditions for homeowners.

But that’s not what comes to mind when Homan talks about the project.

From the person drawing lines in the road to the one driving the big grader and everyone else she encountered, Homan said she marveled.

“I was amazed at the way they reacted, responded and were so accommodating,” she said. “I watched them with people who weren’t very polite respond in an amazing manner. I thought, ‘Where do these people come from?’ My letter came from the county. I didn’t know who was doing the work.”

Black-Top Paving, a division of Journey Group Cos., was one of the contractors tackling the project.

“We knew this was a big project and for residents getting in and out every day is a big deal,” said Ryan Kerkvliet, Black-Top Paving division manager.

“We didn’t discuss anything specific as far as how to address the public, but we try to create a culture at Journey Group where employees feel positive about coming to work and enjoy their jobs. I think it shows when they talk to the public.”

Homan said that was obvious.

“I knew immediately. I was absolutely witness to a well-defined effort to implement a leadership model that trickled all the way down into the trenches,” she said. “They clearly had articulated their company values and obviously model their values.”

Solid foundation, record project

Black-Top Paving started in the 1950s helping build the Interstate Highway System. It grew with Sioux Falls along with the need for paved roads. Black-Top remains a full-service asphalt paving contractor that works on everything from driveways and parking lots to massive highway projects like Minnehaha County Highway 149.

It was 5.7 miles long, stretching from South Dakota Highway 38 north toward Colton. And it was in rough shape.

“The pavement was just tired and worn out, and we had some narrow shoulders … and some safety concerns, so all those things combined added up to reconstruction,” said Shannon Schultz, the assistant county highway superintendent.

Brookings-based Bowes Construction did the grading and put down gravel in early 2016. Black-Top Paving was hired to do the finish work, which included the paving.

JSA Consulting Engineers helped design and coordinate the project.

“We had numerous meetings with the people affected along the corridor before the project started and kept them in the loop with the upcoming work on a biweekly basis,” JSA project manager Chris Jibben said. “I think it was a successful project, on time and on budget for the county.”

Making it happen required the largest quantity of asphalt that Black-Top or Minnehaha County had ever used on a project.

Crews put down 34,000 tons in 10 days. It required coordination with about 20 semi-trucks carrying “a lot of dollars in material,” Kerkvliet said.

It also was one of the largest projects in asphalt supplier Concrete Materials’ 65-year history.

“We were running at capacity those 10 days, producing close to 4,000 (tons) per day out of the plant,” said Billy Pollema, aggregate division anager. “One plant was feeding that job exclusively.”

Concrete Materials supplies all the material for Black-Top projects.

“You can tell they’re managed really well. With their production on the job site, when they say they’re going to lay 4,000 tons a day, they’re going to start early in the morning and they’re going to get it done,” Pollema said. “It’s nice to work with a company that well-organized from the beginning of the day to the end.”

The improved highway opened July 21, about one week ahead of schedule.

“We’re able to set up schedules and manage projects very well because we have the management background through all divisions at Journey,”Kerkvliet said. “That’s what we do. We manage projects. So that plays well for us in managing jobs like this.”

Black-Top pays attention to quality, he added, and often puts extra effort into delivering a first-class highway for the county.

“If we needed an additional guy while paving, we added him. If we had to use an additional roller to get the correct compaction, that’s what we did,” he said. “All our tests came out passing, and I think the project turned out well and went as planned.”

Schultz, the assistant county highway superintendent, is happy with the finished product, too.

“It rides like a dream,” he said. “It looks beautiful and modern. I’m proud it’s a county highway.”

Massive paving project reveals company culture at Journey Group

It’s not often that a homeowner living through a massive road project raves about the experience. But that’s what Journey Group’s Black-Top Paving accomplished during one of its biggest jobs ever.

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