Nebraska Recovers From Historic Flooding
Rebuilding in Record Time: Hawkins Construction Co. Helps Nebraska DOT Quickly Overcome Historic Flooding
This spring, Nebraska experienced historic flooding, taking out bridges and roads. Hawkins Construction Co. of Omaha is one of several firms working on repairing the infrastructure.
“There’s been a lot of damage to our road system and the infrastructure will need to be fixed,” said Governor Pete Ricketts, after a helicopter tour of the devastation. “This is the most severe and widespread flooding we have had in the past half century.”
Ricketts reported seeing extensive flooding in fields, animals stuck on sandbars, broken levies, and bridges swept away in Genoa and near Columbus. Additionally, Routes 30 and 81 were flooded. The water began rising on March 13, 2019. More than 3,300 miles of roads were closed during peak flooding periods. The waters started to recede by March 23, 2019.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported in June that more than 180 miles of roadway had been repaired and reopened. Twenty-seven state bridges were damaged and about 200 miles of pavement were in need of repair. The department estimated the damage to the Nebraska State Highway System was $146 million and $60 million to local roads on federal aid routes.
Additionally, in April, the Spencer Dam failed, after chunks of ice built up behind the dam in March and damaged the 92-year-old structure.
Plans were completed for all bridge repairs or reconstructions, and work quickly began. The process included clearing debris and opening undamaged roads. The department then assessed bridges and roadways to figure out repairs and prioritize the numerous projects. Emergency and permanent repairs were made and traffic resumed.
Twenty-two contractors and consultants have worked to repair the state’s infrastructure.
“They have been working tirelessly to get these roads up and running,” said Ricketts, during a press conference before Memorial Day.
Tim Weander, District 2 Engineer with the Nebraska DOT, at the press conference, also thanked the contractor and consulting communities for their partnership in making the repairs in such a timely fashion.
Hawkins Works to Repair Infrastructure
Hawkins Construction received a $25.4 million contract to rebuild the bridge on Highway 281 over the Niobrara River, between Spencer and O’Neill, to get the road open again. The first phase of the project consists of building a single-lane temporary bridge, allowing traffic to resume by late summer. Then Hawkins will build a 1,050-foot-long permanent bridge, scheduled for completion in spring 2021.
The company also received the contract for repair work on two bridges on Highway 12 west of Niobrara. Again, work began first to install a 24-foot-wide temporary bridge, so the road could reopen while a permanent bridge is built. The $44 million contract includes both the temporary and permanent bridges, which is being designed to withstand higher flooding.
Chris Hawkins, Chief Operating Officer of Hawkins Construction, emphasized in a press conference the importance of infrastructure. The impact of these road and bridge closures is felt especially strongly in more rural communities like Spencer, O’Neill and Niobrara, where detours take upwards of 60 to 90 minutes for a normally short trip across the river.
Immediately following the flooding, Hawkins Construction worked on rebuilding a 1.4 mile-segment of West Dodge Road, between U.S. Highway 275 and 228 Street, just west of Omaha. About 25,000 vehicles use the road daily, creating hardships for drivers who had to take alternate routes after the flooding and creating significant traffic and road deterioration on the detour routes. The flood waters had caused the road to buckle and drop as much as 3 feet in some areas. Work began on March 27 and opened to traffic three weeks ahead of schedule, just in time for Memorial Day. The $2.2 million project included removing damaged pavement, replacing the pavement, grading, building embankments, creating shoulders, seeding, and fencing.
“We want to thank Chris Hawkins and Hawkins Construction Co. for their efforts, expertise and in expediting the construction activities to allow the opening of this freeway corridor in 54 days,” Weander said.
Ricketts also thanked the entire Hawkins Construction team for getting the road open early.
“That was fantastic and the people of Nebraska appreciate it,” Ricketts said.
Hawkins Construction crews crushed the old pavement on-site and used it as a base for the new road, something Chris Hawkins said helped with the early completion. Additionally, he credited the company’s workers for their diligent efforts and skills and their strong relationship with the DOT.
“It is built on decades of trust, working together and a laudable working relationship,” Chris Hawkins said. “Unquestionably the partnership with the Department of Transportation and the private side is good. People should hear that. The Department of Transportation is a well-run agency.”
The DOT made its expectations clear and delivered them in a professional manner, he continued. Just one day after being awarded the West Dodge repair contract, Hawkins Construction had mobilized and began the emergency repair work. Hawkins emphasized that the “excellent work performed on West Dodge is just like any other job at Hawkins Construction. This is what we do every day.”
The opening of West Dodge may be slightly more special; however, due to the effect of the closure on the community and the desire to help after the devastation.
“Driving out here and seeing the message sign ‘West Dodge open’ was much more satisfying than I thought it would be,” Chris Hawkins said. “I am grateful to be part of such a high-performing team.”
A Family-Owned Company
Kenneth and Earl Hawkins began Hawkins Construction in the 1920s, when the company was awarded the contract to build Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. It remains family-owned and -operated. Kenneth’s son joined the company in 1960, and his children Kim and Fred Hawkins Jr. followed. Kim is President and Fred CEO. Later, Chris Hawkins accepted a position in 2004 and is now the Chief Operating Officer.
The company operates in five states: Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, and Kansas and has grown from $20 million in revenue in the 1960s to more than $200 million in annual gross revenue today. In addition to highway and bridge work, Hawkins Construction builds other projects, including wastewater and water treatment plants, hotels, university work, state correctional facilities, office buildings, airports, and research centers.
Hawkins Construction maintains a commitment to excellence, delivering projects on time and within budget. The company puts people first and places a high priority on safety, holding weekly field safety training sessions and quarterly management safety meetings, in addition to providing ongoing training for management. Hawkins Construction has an experience modification rate of 0.55, significantly lower than the industry average.
“The company builds relationships that last with employees, clients and subcontractors,” Chris Hawkins says. “These relationships are built on integrity, trust and transparency. You can expect open communication and no surprises when working with Hawkins Construction.”