‘Red Dog’ leads inspections on bridge

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By Dave Taylor

The bright, royal blue polo shirt was what caught the reporter’s eye during a public meeting several months ago at Madison’s Brown Gymnasium. Stitched in gold on the left breast were the words “Trimble County High School Alumni.” The wearer, sporting a bright red goatee, was an affable young man who seemingly doesn’t meet a stranger. His name is Larry “Red Dog” Collins and he has a significant responsibility with the new Milton-Madison Bridge.

Collins is construction inspection manager for Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the company hired by the Indiana Department of Transportation to provide inspections for Walsh Construction, the company entrusted by Kentucky and Indiana with the construction of the new Milton-Madison Bridge. Collins’s journey from a Trimble County High School student to the important assignment of overseeing inspections on the bridge project first led through engineering studies in college and a role for several years with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

“Growing up we lived in Trimble County for several years, then we moved to Henry County,” Collins said. “Then we decided we liked Trimble County better so we moved back. I went to high school mainly at Trimble County. I graduated in 1995. I spent almost all of my time in Bedford. We’ve still got our ties over there.”

Although he and his wife, Melissa Alexander, now live in downtown Madison, Ind., they still have family in Trimble County, he said. Melissa is a high school science teacher at South Ripley High School in Versailles, Ind., teaching earth science, advanced earth science, biology and human body systems.

After graduating from Trimble County High School in 1995, Collins studied engineering at Western Kentucky University, earning a civil engineering and technology degree in December 2000. In March 2001 he went to work for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet “doing inspection-type work out on roads and bridges.”

Collins then transferred to the KYTC District 5 office in Louisville serving as the lead inspector for the “Restore 64” project when the state replaced a section of I-64 on the Louisville riverfront. He was the section supervisor on the “Revive 65” project, which was a section of I-65 near the Louisville International Airport and the UPS hub. He went to work for Michael Baker Inc. at the outset of construction on the Milton-Madison Bridge.

“My company won the on-call inspection contract for the eight counties of KYTC District 5 office, which includes Trimble County,” he said. “If they need extra inspection forces, they call us and I provide those additional inspectors. We’re pursuing a lot of other work. There’s a lot of work both in Indiana and Kentucky.”

As project supervisor on the bridge, Collins said, “I am in charge of the daily inspections, material testing, pay verifications. I am the INDOT/KYTC representative on site every day. My team makes sure Walsh builds everything to the contract documents, to the standard specifications.”

The size of the team has varied at times and currently includes Collins, one inspector and an assistant supervisor.

“With the closure coming up we’re bringing in a couple of people that have been here on the job before,” he said. “With the peaks and valleys we have to gear up and thin down. At our height there were five inspectors full time that were out here plus me and the assistant supervisor. Aaron Stover, project manager, is my immediate supervisor with Michael Baker Inc.”

Whenever Walsh would install rebar, Collins’ team was out there to make sure it was in the proper location with the correct number of bars and the correct alignment, he said. “When they start pouring that concrete to go around that rebar, we’re the ones testing it and making sure the concrete properties are within tolerances and specifications. The design/build teams design the plans, we review them and once they’re accepted and sent back that is the plans that we work by.”

How did Collins happen upon the moniker “Red Dog?”

On his first day of employment with KYTC he walked into the office I said, “Hello, I’m Shane, your new inspector.”

The field supervisor looked up at him and said, “Oh, no you’re not! My name is Shane so you have to be somebody else. Do you have another name?”

Collins explained that he went by Shane, but that his first name is Larry.

“I didn’t want to be called Larry because that’s my dad’s name,” Collins said. “For the first two or three weeks I went around getting called everything—The Kid, The Muffin Man, Tony the Tiger, a few that I can’t repeat and then one day he yelled, ‘Hey, Red Dog, get in here!’ It stuck. The red goatee added to it. It took on a life of its own. Everybody knows Red Dog. Nobody knows Larry Collins.”

Collins’s responsibility with the Milton-Madison Bridge will continue “until the Indiana Department of Transportation puts that period on it,” he said. “We have to close out the documents. We maintain the final construction records. We turn that in to their finals department. It gets a review. When they accept it then that’s when our role will be done. It will include the final cleanup—punch list, restoring Jaycee Park, putting the grass back on the bank. That is all encompassing.”

Until the incident with the dislodged bridge bearing closed the bridge early on Tuesday of last week Collins said every aspect of the construction project had gone the way it was expected with the exception of time delays created by river levels and weather conditions.

“We had high water in 2011 and we had a bad winter this year,” he said. “We thought we would be able to do more work this winter and we’ve had an unusually cold and brutal winter for our area. Every little thing like that plays into it. Everything went pretty well.

“The biggest question people ask me—I live here, I’m going to use this bridge until I pass away because I’m not leaving this area—everybody wants to know if it’s safe,” Collins said. “We’ve tested it. We’ve sampled it. We’ve inspected the quality of it. I think we’re getting a good product here. It just took us a little longer to get there.”