Security on Our (Other) Border

Upstate New York concrete pumping company is helping create one of the country’s most sophisticated land port of entries (LPOE).
There has been no lack of coverage of this country’s southern border with Mexico and the well-publicized efforts to stem illegal crossings into the U.S. In the midst of all that, however, security measures on our northern borders with Canada are also being fine-tuned and, at one upstate New York location, Kelly’s Concrete Pumping has been a key player in that effort. Drawing upon everything from a pair of small Schwing S 20 pumps to the pump manufacturer’s newest 47-meter unit, the S 47 III, Kelly’s has been a part of the 4 ½ year, 55,000+ cu. yd. project since the outset. In that time, it has used outstanding pump performance to both meet logistical challenges and further enhance an already solid relationship with one of the project’s general contractors.

Bordering on Busy
In addition to the more than 1,500 miles of Canada/Alaska border, 11 of our contiguous states also share nearly 3,800 miles of common border with our neighbor to the north. New York State alone offers 16 border crossings, including four of the two countries’ most heavily traveled locations. One of those, the Alexandria Bay/Lansdowne crossing, is the sixth-busiest crossing for U.S.-bound commercial vehicles. With security and efficiency in mind, it was selected by the General Services Administration for a major, $215 million overhaul, according to Dennis Baron, concrete manager for Northland Associates, Inc., who, in joint venture with Cianbro Corp., are performing as the general contractor on the project.

“The need to better cope with rising commercial traffic volumes as well as a push to further improve border security, really drove the upgrade,” he said. “We’ve built a couple other crossings for the GSA which, with price tags in the $50-70 million range, were not really that small, but paled in comparison to this one; this is going to be the Cadillac of land crossings.”

The Island Life
The Alexandria Bay LPOE project is actually on Wellesley Island located on the St. Lawrence Seaway. While the island is spacious — at four square miles it is one of the largest in New York’s Thousand Island region — the site selected for the expansion was anything but, according to Baron.

“When we got there in the summer of 2017, the area in which the expansion was to take place largely consisted of fairly sizeable hills of granite — it took a number of months of blasting to remove enough material to create room for the expansion to begin. That was just the first challenge the location presented.”

But certainly not the only one. The sole U.S. land access to Wellesley Island is via a two-lane main suspension bridge — built in 1937 — that carried weight restrictions that would have forced Northland to reduce the volumes of each ready mix truck crossing the structure.

“That would have impacted both the schedule and the budget,” said Baron. “We dealt with that issue the best way possible: we purchased our own concrete plant — along with a fleet of ready mix trucks — and erected the plant right on the island. No bridge crossing with loaded ready-mix trucks necessary; problem solved.”

The Case for Kelly’s
The project at Alexandria Bay is being done in two phases: Phase 1, which wrapped up in the fall of 2020, included construction of a commercial inspection warehouse with inspection bays, commercial inspection lanes (with split-level booths for either commercial or non-commercial traffic), an impound lot, and a portion of the centerpiece elevated parking structure.

Phase 2 includes completion of the parking structure, as well as construction of a new main administration building, a new outbound inspection facility, a new veterinary services building, non-commercial inspection lanes, a new non-commercial secondary inspection plaza, new non-intrusive inspection buildings, and parking areas for both employees and visitors. Nearly every facet of the project entails some concrete pumping and for that work, Northland/Cianbro turned to Mickey Myers and Kelly’s Concrete Pumping.

“Mick has a great business philosophy that centers on service to his customers,” said Baron. “We’ve worked with other companies on projects in which one or more pumps have gone down; that, obviously, wreaks havoc with the schedule. That’s never the case with Kelly’s. Mick has newer, quality equipment and he keeps it in excellent shape. He is always there well before concrete arrival time to set up and if we find ourselves uncertain about whether or not a pump will be a good fit for the job, he will come out a day ahead to look things over and offer his insight. To us, that’s invaluable.”

Six Pumps — Super Performance
The appeal Kelly’s holds for companies like Northland is not only their choice of pumps — they have a total of six — but also how well they utilize what they have. While many professionals focus on providing units with the most reach, Myers taps the versatility each pump can bring to the job. He cites his 20-meter pumps as a great case in point.

“Those 20-meter pumps, with their low (12’ 8”) unfolding height were great for working inside several of the new buildings, including the sewage treatment plant, the veterinary clinic, and both of the main buildings” he said. “And, if we had to line pour, we would just work off the back of it, essentially using it like a trailer pump. This past winter, the 20-meter units were in high demand because, as things build out, space is always at a premium. Essentially, if you could fit your pickup in an area, we could fit the 20-meter pump.”

For structures in which using the smaller pumps was not feasible, Kelly’s turned to its 38-meter pump which, by nature of the five-section foldable boom, provided both the access and the necessary reach. According to Myers, however, the short move time of the 38- and 31-meter pumps was an equally valuable benefit at the Alexandria Bay site.

“Quick teardown and setup was important out there,” he said. “There were days when we had to move 8-10 times depending on what was going on and what was ready for pumping at that moment. In one case, we had a paving job in which the crew questioned my use of the 31 XT with its telescopic boom, feeling we needed a pump with greater reach. However, I knew that, positioned correctly, that pump could be just as productive. When we were done, the foreman said: “You were right — and I never even saw you move.” So, being able to move that 31 in ten minutes or less was huge for us, as was its small footprint.”

One-Sided Argument
The parking structure mentioned above is something of the defining structure for the Alexandria Bay LPOE. Running east-west on the site, the elevated 162-car parking facility not only connects each of the major administrative buildings to provide safe and unobstructed movement between them, it also carries many of the site’s utilities and services in its underside. Not surprisingly, it was also the most challenging structure to pump according to Northland’s Baron.

“A lot of the concrete that we poured for that structure called for a 6,500 p.s.i. mix,” he said. “That high-strength demand, coupled with cast-in-place columns and the 80-foot cast-in-place beams that sat atop them to support the parking structure, put Mick and his crew to the task. Maintaining the proper water-to-cement ratio in the concrete mix was critical, and they never failed to deliver, utilizing both their 38-meter and 47-meter pumps to make it happen.”

Myers is quick to concur regarding the challenges, adding that much of the work in that area became even more demanding as work progressed. “Our setups kept getting more and more compressed, particularly as we got closer to Interstate 81. Because both the 38- and 47-meter pumps feature the EASy Flex System, we were able to bring in the outriggers on one side of the pump and set up in a smaller footprint than normal without compromising safety. We were also able to utilize the added reach of the 47 on the parking decks. Sadly, that unit is a fairly recent purchase, so that was a luxury we didn’t have for the first two years of the project.”

A Trust Issue
By now it should be obvious that the Northland/Cianbro JV places a good deal of faith in Kelly’s CP and what they bring to the site each day. That level of trust is based on years of interworking, understanding what is expected of each other, and always striving to deliver. Though he has a litany of them, Baron cites just one example.

“In the world of concrete pumping, breakdowns can be catastrophic from the perspective of both safety and quality assurance,” he said. “Cold joints in the concrete can result in a very costly rejection of the work. On critical pours, Mick can provide the backup resources if needed. Failure is not an option; he embraces that concept — and we benefit from it, time and time again.”



Owners: U.S. General Services Administration, Washington, D.C.
General Contractors: Joint Venture — Cianbro Corp., Pittsfield, Me.; Northland Associates, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.
Design Architect: Morphosis Architects, New York, N.Y.
Construction Management: Gilbane Building Company, Syracuse, N.Y.
Geotechnical Engineering: Wood, PLC, Clifton Park, N.Y.
Structural Engineer: K.P.P.F. Consulting Engineers, New York, N.Y.
Civil Engineer: Barton & Loguidice, Liverpool, N.Y.
Concrete Subcontractor: Northland Associates, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.
Concrete Pumping Subcontractor: Kelly’s Concrete Pumping, Boonville, N.Y.
Concrete Supplier: Northland Ready Mix, Syracuse, N.Y
Equipment: Schwing S 20 SX, S 31 XT, S 38 SX and S 47 SX III truck-mounted concrete pumps with placing booms