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How a Construction Company Chooses Equipment Based on the Job’s Tricky Environment

How a Construction Company Chooses Equipment Based on the Job’s Tricky Environment

7 Dec 2022 Read time: 5 min

For more than 40 years, Marathon Construction Company has built its reputation on delivering innovative, cost-effective solutions in the San Diego area. Many believe this family-run business continues to grow because of its passion and commitment to San Diego’s beautiful coastline. Marathon Construction Company Chairman Jim Furby started the full-service marine and general engineering company specializing in marine and heavy civil construction in the 1980s. Since then, the company has been a part of the region’s changing landscape and has undergone a few changes.

During the early 1990s, the company’s civil engineers and contractors began to specialize in waterfront construction, including concrete installation and environmental restoration. This specialization niche market inspired their family-owned business motto: “Shaping San Diego’s waterfront,” .first coined by Jim and now part of the company’s DNA, explains Jim’s son Mike who is now president of the company.

“It’s nice to go down to the waterfront and San Diego Harbor to look at all the stuff we built and see all the people that use these areas,” Mike said.

Marathon Construction Company has built marine construction piers, marinas, sea walls and jetties. (Both sea walls and jetties are concrete structures to prevent further shoreline erosion.) Their team has also completed regular excavation operations, like dredging, where operators collect bottom sediments in shallow or deep seas to dispose of at a different location. Marathon Construction Company’s many years of expertise in this work led their company to lagoon restoration projects overseen by public and private organizations like San Elijo Lagoon restoration during the mid-2000s. 

“Restoration jobs - which includes regional infrastructure and grouping of different municipalities – request statements of qualifications,” Mike explained. “So they pick a contractor based on their credentials and past work.” 

Often, a lagoon restoration job requires its capacity to be increased, Mike explained. “So basically, it’s like a bathtub. You want to put more water in the bathtub when the tide goes out and allow the lagoon to receive many tidal exchanges.” 

Because coastal lagoons change with the tides, their characteristics, like depth, can often vary, making them susceptible to breach, flooding, or being cut off from their water source. In fact, coastal lagoons are shallow or swampy at low tides, whereas high tides increase the depth and, with it, often an influx in sea life. Lagoon restoration is a way to manage these conditions and restore wetlands to support a variety of animals and their habitats, including salt marshes.

“The San Dieguito Lagoon Wetland Restoration Project is a unique, large restoration project, um, that had a pre-construction phase,” Mike said. “The owner brought Marathon Construction on board to review the design and estimate to create budgets. So, in that early process, we reached out to RDO when we were trying to figure out what to do.” 

Marathon Construction Company has worked with RDO Equipment Company’s team members at the Lakeside store since 2008.

“The nice thing about RDO is that we have similar cultures and philosophies and are both quality-orientated,” Mike said.

Marathon Construction Company partnered with RDO during the last San Elijo Lagoon Restoration. The company contacted RDO when another restoration project caught their eye.

The San Dieguito project covers more than 150 acres (about twice the area of a large shopping mall) and will take eight years to complete. Marathon Construction Company needed to move about a million yards of dirt in two years during the project.

Mike underlined the iterative process of figuring out how to tackle this specific lagoon restoration and highlighted Marathon Construction Company’s Chief Estimator Dave Cunningham’s work. Dave worked with several RDO team members to determine the best equipment for this job, including its projected maintenance and parts.

“I looked at every piece of equipment I could to figure out what would work for us,” Dave said. We looked at competitors regarding what was available and how responsive they were to my lots and lots of questions. [RDO Sales Professional] Ernie Dobson didn’t always know the answer to the question, but he always found somebody to give me the answer to the question. And the others didn’t do that.” 

Usually, this project’s large amount of earth-moving work requires a big machine, like an 870 excavator, but a machine like that would get stuck. 

“We’ve used a 670 in this lagoon and had problems getting stuck and sinking. So, for this project, we ended up with a 470 size because that was the best weight to, to ground pressure ratio,” Dave said. 

A 20-year construction industry veteran, Ernie worked with Dave to sort through various ideas and bring in a John Deere representative in 2018 – well before Marathon needed to break ground on the project.

To figure out which pieces of equipment could move the maximum amount of dirt yet exert the least amount of ground pressure to improve maneuverability throughout the job site, Ernie brought in an excavator, and dozer specialists to Marathon Construction Company’s proving grounds.

And because of this partnership, Marathon started work on this project on time earlier this summer, with an expected completion date of 2024.

Watch the equipment at work near Del Mar this summer. 

Hear from other customers who partnered with RDO to grow and build their businesses.  

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