Full Speed Ahead


December 1, 2008

Southern California producer juggles crushing at a fast-paced highway site and back at the quarry.

The ability to crush on site in remote locations has improved dramatically throughout the last decade. No longer does material need to be trucked off site, processed, and returned (or sold) for a practical recycling application to be realized. But while many companies have found success crushing remotely, C.A. Rasmussen, Inc. of Valencia, Calif., has raised the bar even higher with its latest project along the Route 118 Simi Valley Freeway. With live traffic moving at 75 miles per hour in each direction, Rasmussen processed and reemployed nearly 30,000 tons of broken concrete and asphalt in the 60-foot median of that thoroughfare.

Crushing is not Rasmussen’s main business. Founded by Carl A. Rasmussen in 1964 with just a couple of motor graders and a small team of employees, C. A. Rasmussen quickly grew from his business’ reputation and size. His three sons, Dean, Larry, and Charlie joined the business after each completed college, and the company evolved into the general engineering contractor firm it is today. It was a project in 1971 that served as its catalyst into large-scale projects. The contract was to grade the road leading up to Magic Mountain, a main theme park attraction in Southern California.

Since its success with that project, Rasmussen continued to grow, and today is a leading provider of roads, bridges, freeways, and other heavy civil infrastructure projects. “We just finished two very large marinas,” says Tim MacDonald, vice president of C.A. Rasmussen. “Our expertise allows us to provide a broad scope of services on a wide range of projects.” MacDonald, who himself has 40 years of experience in the industry, has been with Rasmussen for the past 12 years. “I’ve been in Southern California for my entire career, and Rasmussen has certainly earned its positive reputation. It’s a great company to work for.”

Recently, Rasmussen added another angle to its scope of capability. “Crushing became part of our business about a year and a half ago,” MacDonald says. “We have a couple of satellite sites where we take in concrete and asphalt waste for recycling, and acquired a quarry pit for raw aggregate production as well.” This is not its first entry into the aggregates business, however. It operated asphalt and ready-mix plants throughout California; but a recent consolidation effort resulted in a divestiture of those operations. “We pulled back from the asphalt and ready-mix about four or five years ago,” MacDonald explains. “Because we were conducting that statewide, I think the owners realized it was quite a bit to keep up with.”

But the Southern California crushing capability has been a tremendous advantage for the company, both from a revenue-generating and a cost-savings perspective. “We originally acquired the plant to make ourselves more competitive on projects where a lot of concrete or asphalt will be removed, as it saves on transportation, dumping fees, etc.,” he adds. “But we do produce aggregate as well and operate a wholesale arm where we can sell that rock to the general market.”

Its original set up began with a trifecta of portable equipment: a Fast Trax 2650 jaw, a 6203 closed-circuit tracked screen, and a K-300 cone. Rasmussen visiting the manufactured the facilities of a number of brands while researching the equipment purchase. Jock Voelzke, of Balzer Pacific Equipment Co., brought the Rasmussen team to see KPI-JCI. “Our master mechanic and our owner [Charlie Rasmussen] went to see several manufacturers, but it was the KPI-JCI that really made the strongest impression,” MacDonald says. “They were looking for a system that was all-hydraulic, and this one was it. We can run the bulk of our belts and conveyors off these so that eliminates the need for generators and such.”

An all-hydraulic system was just one advantage Rasmussen found with the plants. “Since it was our intention all along to crush on remote locations, easy set up and portability was critical for us to have a highly efficient operation,” MacDonald explains. “We can get this plant taken down, moved, and set back up in about four hours, which allows us the flexibility to schedule it wherever we need, or move it back to the quarry to do some on-site crushing when there isn’t an immediate application out in the field.”

The ability to crush at the project site eliminated a potentially tremendous expense to recycle old aggregate. “Landfilling is simply not economically feasible anymore, and in Southern California, there are a lot of transfer stations you can haul to; but they charge you $30 to $50 per load, plus $5 a ton to buy it back, with the trucking in both directions and the tax. So it was pretty clear where we could gain from this investment,” McDonald says.

That portable flexibility was put to the test last spring when Rasmussen assigned the plant to recycling duty at the Simi Valley Freeway project. The $45 million lane-widening project involved redevelopment of the center divider, adding extra lanes in both directions, erecting sound walls, and expanding four bridges along the 5-mile stretch to accommodate the upgrades. Throughout the course of demolition and site prep, thousands of tons of concrete and asphalt waste were stockpiled in the median of the freeway between two fast lanes of traffic.

“We had basically created a kind of conical elongated pile of rubble 1,000 feet long, running down the center of traffic moving 75 miles per hour in both directions just on the other side of the K-rail,” MacDonald says. “We had exactly 60 feet of right of way in which to work.” During a 22-day span, Rasmussen crushed about 27,000 tons of asphalt and concrete to put back down in the project as base.

Portability served the contractor well. “Every so often, as we chewed our way through the 1,000-foot pile, it would become economically better to move the plant to the face of the pile, rather than run the loaders back and forth to the plant,” he adds. “With the ease of take down and set up, we were able to pick up and move and be crushing again in about four hours.”

Efficient relocation was not the only benefit offered by the system. “We had the entire plant running in the median, crushing and screening product,” MacDonald says. “And not once did we receive a citation for dust, or a rock through a window, or anything. With 300,000 plus cars passing us every day, it couldn’t have been tidier. Safety was crucial to this project.”  Despite tight quarters and strict operational regulations, the plant never threw a rock or interfered with the traffic.

With that task quite successfully accomplished, the plants were moved back to the quarry for more hard rock production. But this is not currently a friendly economy, and that toll has certainly had an affect on how Rasmussen manages its business. “There is considerably less aggregate consumption right now because of the housing downturn,” MacDonald says. “We used to send most of our product to private road and street development. But now we crush to maintain inventory mostly for the public works projects.”

MacDonald admits that this cycle is certainly challenging, but after 40 years in the business, an economic downturn is definitely nothing new. “This is probably the third cycle like this I’ve been through, though this one is an interesting one,” he says. “We’re finding that there are still plenty of projects to bid on, but it’s a very competitive process because so many more firms are bidding on them – a number of which seem to have come out of nowhere.”

Regardless, Rasmussen is obviously here to stay, and some shrewd planning and smart decision making will only make this firm stronger. It recently bought a second track-mounted screen plant so the quarry can continue to screen natural product while the crushing plant is out on recycling assignments. And the opportunity to establish a few more satellite dumping sites is being pursued. “There’s plenty of opportunity to be had still, even in this economy,” MacDonald says.

No matter the challenge, C.A. Rasmussen, Inc. will always be in the middle of the aggregate industry in Southern California. “We love it. We love the people, we like seeing a project go from a piece of paper to a finished mode of transportation, and we like the challenges you get thrown,” MacDonald says. “It’s a great business. Certainly not without its cycles, but we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Article and photos courtesy of KPI-JCI.

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