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Ragnar Benson Construction Evolves With Industry Demands

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Ragnar Benson Construction is overseeing modernization of the LATC Union Pacific facility.

Since its founding in 1922, Ragnar Benson Construction has made a name for itself as one of the Chicago area’s leading builders for its professional, innovative and collaborative approach to projects. The company continues to expand and evolve with industry demands while maintaining its reputation for the quality of its workforce and integrity of its management. 

Ragnar Benson Construction got its start building sidewalks in Chicago and in the 1980s began performing work for the railroad industry. Headquartered in Rockford, Ill., the company is owned by Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives (IEA). Since 2005, Ragnar Benson has been owned by William Charles Construction. In 2019, both comapnies were acquired by IEA. Today, the two companies continue to work closely together, sharing management and resources to bring added value and greater scalability to its customers in the heavy civil construction, remediation and rail markets.

Today, Ragnar Benson Construction is involved in several markets throughout the country. Light and heavy rail make up a bulk of the company’s work today, including projects with the Chicago Transit Authority and Union Pacific. It also oversees construction projects in the education, healthcare, environmental and power sectors.  

The company specializes in construction management, general contracting, preconstruction and design/build services. In addition, it also has the ability to self-perform a majority of the work on its projects. “We have a strong self-perform aspect to our business,” President Dave Bergstrom says. “We literally self-perform all civil, electrical and environmental activities excluding laying track.”

Union Pacific Los Angeles Transportation Center

Ragnar Benson Construction is overseeing the modernization of the Los Angeles Transportation Center (LATC) Union Pacific Intermodal Facility. The company has performed a number of projects for Union Pacific in the past, including the Global IV Intermodal Facility in Joliet, Ill., and the Port Laredo Intermodal Facility in Texas.  

“LATC is an existing intermodal terminal that seems to have gone through a number of iterations over its history, and we are currently modernizing the terminal,” Bergstrom says. “What’s unique about this terminal is the coordination effort with operations and integrating our construction activities around operational traffic coming in and out of the job site.”

The LATC Intermodal Facility will be completed over eight phases. Ragnar Benson began working on the project in February 2018 and is about 75 percent complete to date. “When you work on phased projects, it’s more meticulous and the biggest challenge becomes working around the existing operations. In addition, we are working in downtown Los Angeles, which is quite a congested area. It’s not a problem, it just means you do things differently. For example, we are pouring concrete at night rather than when there is heavy traffic.” 

Ragnar Benson Construction is removing the existing pavements and track, installing new pavement, parking areas and foundations. The intermodal facility will be equipped with a new automatic gate entrance and Ragnar Benson Construction is installing a bridge to provide additional access to the facility. 

“We are updating the infrastructure they had,” Bergstrom says. “Pavements do wear out and there is a need to maintain tracks. Every once in a while, there is a need for a blanket change and this isn’t the first time this facility has been redone. As we are digging down, you can see all the different phases of modernization that has been done on the facility.”

One of the biggest changes Ragnar Benson Construction has seen in the rail industry is an emphasis on longer trains due to precision-scheduled railroading, which is a system for trimming down wait times and boosting cargo efficiency. “Precision railroading has changed the way the railroads do business, creating longer trains and move movements on the trains,” Bergstrom explains. 

Constant Communication 

Maintaining safety on every site is critical, but especially so in dangerous intermodal yards. “You have trucks going all over the place, so it all comes down to communication with operations and we have been very successful in doing that,” Bergstrom says. “We have two full-time safety personnel on the job site to keep an eye on everything and we have had no lost-0time accidents or incidents on-site.”

Ragnar Benson Construction has worked with a majority of the subcontractors on the LATC project, including Ryan Contractors that is constructing the new building and canopies, W.A. Rasic Construction that is performing the underground utility work, Griffith is performing the paving work and Aldridge Electrical is performing the site electrical work. Pulice Construction is constructing the bridge to the intermodal facility. The LATC intermodal facility is expected to be completed in third quarter 2020. “The LATC project is operating at a high level that is meeting all safety, budget and quality goals,” Bergstrom says. “We attribute this to the high level of coordination and communication the overall team has established and we look forward to continuing this trend to the completion of this project.” 

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