J-Track celebrates its 10th anniversary – Construction Today
J-Track celebrates its 10th anniversary with expansion across the United States.
By Chris Kelsch
A decade ago, J-Track started as a track company and eventually became a general contractor as well. “This opportunity was only possible through the faith and trust that Tom Iovino [CEO of Judlau Enterprise] had at the time,” J-Track President Mitch Levine says. “He was able to foresee the future for J-Track to succeed.”
Now after only 10 years in business, J-Track is expanding its track division to projects in Chicago, Massachusetts, Texas and eventually throughout the United States. “We started as a track company,” says Scott Sbrocco, vice president of sales. “We had a vision that we would eventually expand throughout the country as a track company.”
The company got off to a fast start in 2007, securing key jobs with Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) throughout the five boroughs of New York within months of opening its doors. J-Track was successful with its first bid, winning the poured concrete portion on Pier 86 that houses the world famous “Intrepid Museum” on the west side of Manhattan.
A few months later, J-Track was the successful bidder on two major projects as the general contractor, self-performing all the concrete work, excavation and track for the Staten Island Railway and the Long Island Rail Road. The fast start was owed partly to the experience of the founding team. Mitch Levine, Christopher Vito and Scott Sbrocco all had extensive experience around the metropolitan New York area, working on various projects for the MTA.
Sbrocco in particular was able to use his engineering background to cut costs, allowing J-Track to come in as a lower bidder against several contractors with years in the business. “At the beginning I was the estimator and project manager,” Sbrocco recalls. “So I knew soup to nuts how to do the job, bring in the right people with little overhead, and minimal equipment. Our overhead was kept low, and those savings were able to be passed on to our customers.”
It was after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, however, when the company really took off. Due to extensive damage from Sandy, several track routes and transit tunnels throughout the New York area had to be repaired – particularly in the coastal areas of New Jersey and Queens – and quickly. Two days after the storm struck, the MTA contacted J-Track to perform emergency storm repairs.
One of those key projects was along the A line in the Far Rockaways, a stretch of track that runs along John F. Kennedy International Airport and ultimately connects the Rockaway peninsula to the mainland (Queens). The storm dumped 4,000 tons of debris on the track, including massive items such as boats, jet skis and buoys. “The storm came in and flooded the track,” Sbrocco says. “There were breaches in the track that were a football field in length. We were in there within days with 100 men and 20 pieces of equipment. This took J-Track roughly six months to complete. By May of 2013, we had completed the line.”
That $54 million emergency job showcased J-Track’s ability to work around the clock to complete a project. It also set the table for other complex projects, including a massive overhaul of the Lexington Ave/53rd Street Station in New York. “J-Track has been a very important track contractor succeeding in removal and building tracks on most of the Sandy-related flooded tunnels,” Levine says, “such as Montague Tunnel, Steinway Tubes, 53rd Street Tunnel, Clark Street Tunnel, and most recently being awarded the most heavily traveled L line Canarsie Tunnel track work.”
Another avenue of work was New York Police Academy in Queens, N.Y. J-Track performed the underground utilities, drill piles, as well as the complete fit-out of the interior, and also served as general contractor, managing 10 subcontractors. A unique part of this job was actually modifying a passenger train to fit inside the academy for training purposes.
Equally important, the company has developed expertise in other areas, such as installing gas lines for Con Edison, a major supplier of gas and electric in the New York Area. In fact, J-Track recently picked up four contracts with Con Edison in New York. This work has brought new technology into J-Track’s labor force, as workers had to be trained in fusing and welding gas lines. J-Track will also be performing excavation, shoring and roadway restoration, ensuring another avenue of growth.
Given its expertise in track work, its decision to expand and open up a Chicago-based office in Lisle, Ill., is a logical next step. Known as the J-Track LLC Central Division, it will be run by Bill Dorris, vice president and general manager. “This is the rail hub of the country,” Dorris says. “And we definitely wanted to have a strong Midwest presence.” Indeed, the company has already begun bidding on an estimated $2.2 billion worth of Chicago Transit Authority improvement projects over the next few years, to go along with plenty of projects back in New York as well.
In addition to focusing on the Midwest, the new Central Division will let J-Track focus on other areas of the country where extensive track work is being done. “The beauty of Bill’s operation is he can go anywhere in the U.S, and he may even hit California,” Levine says. “We would love to have a presence in all 48 states.”
Regardless of which states J-Track operates in, it ultimately knows what it is, first and foremost. “Our main focus is track,” Levine says. “But as track people, it’s down and dirty work, 24/7, no frills.” And that means the company will continue to apply simple principles. “The mindset of our group now is the same as it was back in 2007,” Levine explains. “Our culture is basically hardworking people, with an open and transparent company. At the end of the day, the low bid wins, but we need to remember that our workforce is the most important asset.”
And as J-Track continues to value its people, its revenues and project base have only gone up. “We want to be the $100 million company,” Levine says.
“We made that goal the year Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area, and are trying hard to work our way back there and most important sustain that year after year.”