Watching Gilchrist Construction work is like watching a well-oiled machine. Pilot cars guide motorists safely from one side to the other. Within, a stretch of fresh pavement is laid, paving machine and rollers working while a steady stream of dump trucks deliver fresh asphalt. It may seem like an ordinary process, but Gilchrist is no ordinary paving contractor. Gilchrist has begun to distinguish itself with strong and swift performance, churning out quality pavement in large quantities.
Formed in the 1970s, as a small site-work company, Gilchrist expanded operations to include highway projects after Randy Gilchrist took over ownership from his father in 1985. The company has grown into one of the leading highway contractors in Louisiana with more than 600 employees.
Raymond Boniol, an engineer for Gilchrist, says the company has structured itself to speedily pave many jobs successfully. It has won a number of bids for four-laning and paving projects with the TIMED Program. Gilchrist's bids have come in at savings of both cost and time to the state of Louisiana. Crews within Gilchrist are specialized for each function of a project. Crews move faster as a result. "It saves time because of the learning curve," says Boniol. "When you have the same people doing the same thing every day, you get a better product."
Saving time on projects as well as producing a quality product has helped Gilchrist earn 5-percent quality incentives on two recently completed TIMED asphalt projects along US 165. An organized team's hard work culminated on a TIMED four-laning project record-breaking asphalt production day for the company on a U.S. 167 widening project between Alexandria and the Arkansas state line. When complete, the entire 112-mile corridor will total $699 million.
The company laid 5,070 tons of SuperPave roadway in December, in spite of the record-setting cold fronts that came before and after. The company's previous record was set in the summer months, and totaled 3,470 tons. Gilchrist paved the first layer of a five-mile portion, 2 inches thick and one 15-foot lane wide. Crews began loading asphalt at 6 a.m., and by 3 p.m. the asphalt crews had already produced 3,400 tons. With cold weather approaching, they continued to finish the lane, with plans to begin the adjacent travel lane the next morning. Crews loaded the last of the mix at 9:30 that night, finishing the lane at 11.
"In the winter months, you know your window of opportunity is going to be short at best," says Miken Hudnall, asphalt division manager for Gilchrist. "Once we mobilized to the job we saw an even shorter window developing before the first load of hot mix rolled in." Hudnall credits teamwork between his crews and Louisiana TIMED Managers (LTM) program manager in charge of the LA DOTD project. "We did a lot of hands on planning with the LTM personnel on the job. Once we mobilized the job we saw an even shorter window before that first load moved in. We decided if production was going well by mid day, then we would try to continue paving until we reached the end of the five-mile roadway.
"What we're most proud of is the quality." Hudnall says the project received a 5-percent quality incentive. "Our people were not just out there producing mix, our people and LTM's people were concerned about every inch of the pavement as we went along, and that's what makes it so special. Together we were achieving quality and quantity at levels that had never been done before."
Getting the work done also opened the door for other activities on the site like preparing driveways, work that could begin concurrently with the paving. "It makes people that live along that roadway extremely happy," says Hudnall. "In the scheme of the world it's a small event; in the scheme of the world of the people who lived along that route, it was not small. It was monumental. Those businesses are proud to have their road up and running."