Colorado Public Works Journal, Spring-Summer 2023

14┃ Colorado Public Works Journal INDUSTRY INSIGHTS feature by Sean O’Keefe After more than 43 years in the industry, Ralph Bell of Castle Rock Construction Company (CRCC) finds himself slowly winding down a prestigious career in concrete paving. Having graduated from the Missouri School of Mines, Bell was working for a predecessor firm, Irving F. Jensen Company, an Iowa concrete paving contractor when one of the four Jensen brothers, Erik Jensen, proposed starting a Colorado division. In 1981 Bell was one of a handful of employees that followed Erik a little further west and he’s been here ever since. “I’ve always loved building things,” says Bell who has been at the helm of Castle Rock Construction Company of Colorado since the LLC was formed in 2002 as a partnership between ownership and a core group of long-term employees. “I enjoy the satisfaction of a successful bid and seeing it to fruition through the efforts of a team of professionals committed to hard work.” Today, CRCC is a recognized leader in Colorado’s concrete paving industry. CRCC offers a full array of construction services associated with roadway construction including earthwork, demolition, and removal of existing roadways, underground utilities, and curb & gutter construction. “CRCC is a mid-size company of about 125 full-time employees. We have been happy to maintain that position while we have watched several local competitors be acquired,” says Bell of CRCC’s market disposition – not status quo but rather quietly confident. “We are advocates for concrete pavement, and sincerely believe concrete is the best long-term investment transportation departments can make in their roadways.” As Bell recalls, when he arrived in 1981 Colorado was very much an asphalt state. Almost nothing was paved in concrete. Having spent more than 40 years building the state’s market for concrete, Bell has seen a lot of change. He is most proud of the fact that the projects he helped build in the 80s and 90s have stood the test of time and still meet everyday demands 30+ years later. “There have been ebbs and flows in the market, but concrete paving can truly last a lifetime. We can look back at the work CRCC did long ago that is still performing well. Concrete does require maintenance, but as a long-term investment, it’s hard to beat,” says Bell. Though there have been countless assignments in Bell’s career, noteworthy mentions in CRCC’s portfolio include Colorado US 36 Boulder Turnpike, Pena Boulevard, several sections of I-225, and numerous other assignments for CDOT and transportation departments across Colorado. “Change is always about finding a better way of doing things. Today we use more environmentally friendly concrete mixes, recycled aggregates, and local aggregates to reduce the impacts of hauling. With the right perspective, challenges become opportunities,” says Bell. He points to a series of formative innovations that have reshaped the industry in the time he’s been involved. The development of Dowel Bar Inserter Pavers replaced basketwelded assemblies as the primary means of laying down concrete roadways about 20 years ago. This introduced tremendous efficiency. Innovations in mix compositions have led to increased ride quality, which has been something of a sticking point with consumers in the past. “Concrete overlays have become more common over the last 10 to 15 years as well,” adds Bell of the process of roto milling an asphalt surface and spreading a 6- to 8” layer of concrete over it. “Those projects are also starting to prove their long-term value through consistent performance. This is a case of trying to help transportation departments spend their money wisely. We’ve done “I enjoy the satisfaction of a successful bid and seeing it to fruition through the efforts of a team of professionals committed to hard work.” Ralph Bell, Castle Rock Construction Company