Creeks in eastern Oklahoma were up for a good belly scratching every so often.
After a modest stint as an equipment salesman, Haskell Lemon suited up for some small subcontracting and materials producing work. In 1948, he started bidding road projects under the Haskell Lemon name. Back in those days the Oklahoma City region had a significant amount of gravel bases, and Lemon found a valuable resource at the bottom of creeks.
"He would locate the materials in the creek bed," Peter Wert told Roads & Bridges. "He would go down by the creek, take his little drag line, dip gravel out of the creek and sell it to those who would take it to the road and spread it for base."
Wert has followed the Lemon way of business for almost 40 years. He started out as a project coordinator, connecting with supervisors on a daily basis in order to supply the necessary materials and equipment to any given job. Graduating with a degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma, his expertise was developed among the dirt pushers, and later he took on additional responsibilities with asphalt plant production. Before his retirement in April 2000 he was in charge of everything under the sun, while his brother-in-law, Larry Lemon, handled the bidding and estimating.
Today, Haskell Lemon Construction Co. is banking on its third generation. Larry now serves as chairman and Pete's son, Ken, sits in the president's chair. Larry also has two sons working the company. Bob Lemon is now responsible for bidding and estimating while Jay works the field.
"The family-owned business, I believe, is the core of America's economic engine," said Wert. "We're very proud of the fact that our third generation is active in the business."
Planning for the best
Rising from the creek mud was an asphalt plant in Oklahoma City servicing various paving contractors across the region. Then Haskell Lemon bulked up its contracting side of the business, and in the early '70s purchased a second permanent plant to meet a heavy demand. "We grew with Oklahoma City," said Wert.
But the company's focus tightened as it started looking for higher specification work.
"We purchased the equipment, we trained the employees, we got into our own testing," said Wert. "It was more like a planned growth than something that erupted over night."
Profits, however, started flowing like molten lava and before the '80s rolled around Haskell Lemon purchased a small trucking company, A & A Trucking, out of Oklahoma City. A & A hauled road materials and had a dry gravel pit, which allowed Haskell Lemon to start a sand and gravel company called General Materials Inc.
"We used the sand for our own use as a fine aggregate in hot-mix asphalt. Later on we developed a commercial operation supplying building sand, washed concrete sand and gravel products for the general building industry," said Wert.
Haskell Lemon increased capacity again with the purchase of two portable asphalt plants to conduct business in the outer edges of its market area, and about 12 years ago the decision was made to set foot in the concrete business with the addition of a portable central mix concrete plant.
"For years our maximum effort was in the asphalt paving business," said Wert, who also said the company had a pretty nice grading operation. "The concrete plant allows us to compete for concrete work in our territory."
Honored in black and white
You just may be able to travel the country and not find a better asphalt or concrete road project executed by Haskell Lemon over the last five years. In 1998, the National Asphalt Pavement Association gave the company its trumpet treatment by honoring them with the 1997 Sheldon G. Hayes Award for work done on Oklahoma's I-40. It was the state's first A+B bidding experience.
The American Concrete Pavement Association recognized Haskell Lemon with top honors for a paving job on the Broadway Extension (U.S. 77) and Britton Road.
In a four-mile stretch of I-40, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation wanted to remove 9 in. of existing hot-mix asphalt (HMA) and reconstruct the roadway with new full-depth polymer-modified HMA. Haskell Lemon removed a total of 70,000 tons of existing HMA, and before a new road was placed a 6-in. polyethylene under drain was installed and a separator fabric was placed. This was followed by the laying of 3 in. of open-graded bituminous base. The fabric combined with the base was designed to act as a drainage layer in the pavement structure.
The polymer used on the project was Elvaloy SBS copolymer, manufactured by DuPont, which was blended with the asphalt cement. Three percent of the polymer was added to the surface course and 1% was added to the base material.
With an on-site CMI triple drum asphalt plant producing HMA at a rate of 400 tons an hour, Haskell Lemon constructed the road using 6 in. of type A asphalt base and 11-1/2 in. of type B asphalt binder course. A 3/4 in. open-graded friction surface course was placed to make it a quiet, skid-resistant driving surface.
Using a total of five lifts the contractor was able to achieve smoothness of less than a 1/2 in. of roughness per mile.
"That's a project where really everything went together particularly well," Ken Wert told Roads & Bridges. "The road has held up well."
U.S. 77 and Britton Road
Haskell Lemon did not want to hold up traffic on the Broadway Extension, which is Oklahoma City's primary commuter route (80,000 ADT) from the north section to downtown. The job called for a complete removal and replacement of a bridge about 300 ft long and one mile of mainline concrete paving and service roads. Texas turnarounds also were designed for the bridge—a span that was widened from two lanes to four.
The new road consisted of four 12-ft driving lanes each way plus an outside HOV lane reserved for future use. Crews performed a complete concrete removal, including soil stabilization, and replaced it with 8 in. of fly ash-treated subgrade, 2 in. of HMA and 10 in. of dowel-jointed mainline paving.
There was a lane rental provision of $50,000 for every hour a lane was closed to traffic. Prominent watch dogs were housed nearby, too. The state's largest newspaper--the Daily Oklahoman--and several area television stations have offices close to the intersection and use the bridge daily. Haskell Lemon met with the media before the project started to make sure the public knew what they were getting into.
"This job was perceived from the beginning that once it started traffic flow was going to come to a complete standstill," said Ken Wert. "We made sure that didn't happen."
On-site police surveillance and "all kinds of advanced message signs" helped fight congestion, according to Ken Wert. Haskell Lemon also took existing service roads on both sides of the project and used them as detours.
Rental requests aren't flooding in from Haskell Lemon. The strategy is to buy new or low-hour equipment, and reserve renting for special types of jobs.
"We try to maintain and keep our equipment and then turn it back to the used market," said Ken Wert.
All four of the company's asphalt plants carry the CMI brand: CMI central drum mix asphalt plant (permanent); CMI central drum mix asphalt plant (portable); CMI SVM 10.5 central drum mix asphalt plant (permanent); and CMI PTD 400 central drum mix asphalt plant (portable). Haskell Lemon also owns a CON-E-CO portable concrete plant.
There are four asphalt pavers (two Cedarapids, two Caterpillar) and three concrete pavers (Gomaco Commander III, CMI SF-350, Gomaco GT-6300), as well as two Roadtec Shuttle Buggys and a CMI MTP-4004CP concrete placer/spreader.
Haskell Lemon maintains a fleet of over 20 compaction pieces, which includes Ingersoll-Rand, Caterpillar, Dynapac and Hamm models.