November 26, 2018
Blog

C3M Power Systems: Delivering the Infrastructure that Keeps America’s Transit Systems Moving

"It's all about trust, when you get down to it." That’s Chuck Tomasco speaking, vice president at C3M Power Systems. He sits back in his chair and continues, “I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years. Looking at what it takes to work well with people and build successful projects, trust is what truly matters. It’s not only market knowledge or the ability to perform the electrical work—those are more like prerequisites. To go above and beyond—it’s about building a high level of trust for your team and your client.”

C3M, a subsidiary of Clark Construction, is a specialty contractor that’s delivering some of the most complex electrical systems for critical infrastructure around the United States. In the short time since its inception, C3M has already made a name for itself in the transit market— one that it intends to build upon for years to come. 

Since C3M’s founding in 2014, Senior Vice President Mark Ketchel and Vice Presidents Chuck Tomasco and Chuck Hinton have guided the company to a steady, deliberate growth. The C3M leaders formed the company after years of working together while at other electrical contracting firms that performed work across every market sector—from mass transit work for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and a fueling facility at Dulles International Airport to a wastewater treatment plant for Fairfax County, Virginia. Starting at C3M with 15 employees, they hit the ground running. Four years later, and the company employs more than 150 individuals working on 11 projects in 9 cities across the United States.

WHAT IT TAKES

C3M’s team takes pride in its qualifications, which are often the largest factor in the success of the projects in their market sector. A substantial portion of the firm’s portfolio consists of rehabilitating mass transit electrical systems.

“You really need a lot of specialized experience to do this type of work well,” says Hinton. “Take traction power systems in the Washington, DC Metro system. This type of work not only requires the qualifications and technical ability to do the work—which is challenging in itself—but you also have to expect and be prepared to overcome the inherent unpredictability associated with working on an active railroad. When you combine Clark and C3M’s history in the system, our experience with the work goes back to the original installation in the 1970s.” What does that mean? Years of data and expertise back up the company’s understanding of the types of work they perform, which reflects not only in a stellar reputation and execution of work but also a preconstruction strategy that delivers accurate results. Ketchel, Tomasco, and Hinton are hands-on managers— they roll up their sleeves to make sure that each project proceeds as planned.

MAKING A MARK IN THE TRANSIT SECTOR

C3M Power Systems puts their years of experience to work to address increasingly critical mass transit solutions in cities across the United States. In 2016, C3M completed the first contract it was awarded—the Cincinnati Bell Connector. Following the project’s success, C3M tackled the QLINE Streetcar in Detroit, which was completed in 2017, and the Oklahoma City Modern Streetcar, which is expected to open for business in December 2018. All three projects required state-of-the-art Overhead Catenary Systems (OCS) to transmit electrical power to the streetcars, and each project presented its own unique challenge. The QLINE is the first streetcar system to feature vehicle charging stations and provided more miles of offwire track than any other streetcar in the country. For the Oklahoma City streetcar, the team energized their first traction power substation just 10 months after Notice to Proceed by leveraging relationships and precise schedule coordination with trade partners and city agencies. Combined, these three streetcar projects provide improved public transportation to more than one million local residents.

The team continues to partner with WMATA as the organization upgrades the Metro system across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. C3M recently began work on its largest contract to date—a $59-million systems upgrade project that will allow the transit system to accommodate 8-car trains on their Blue Line through electrical upgrades at 7 tie breaker stations and 25 traction power substations. 

C3M’s prolific experience with mass transit electrical systems enables their teams to execute creative solutions, optimizing safety and efficiency. On WMATA’s Orange and Blue Line Rehabilitation project, the team implemented a custom-built system on the D10 aerial portion of the project. The D10 aerial's specified plan dictated 75% of work be performed at night when the trains were not running. The slim gap between operational and non-operational hours meant that C3M was only able to work actively on the tracks two to four hours per night, a fraction of a typical eight-hour shift. Foreman Wayne Kirkpatrick designed 21 custom junction boxes that significantly improved how much work could be done during active rail operations. It allowed much of the work to be done during the day and permitted productive work to be done during the full eight-hour nightshift. As a result, the D10 aerial completed months ahead of schedule.

“One thing I’m pretty proud of,” says Tomasco, “is that when there’s a problem, clients know that they can call us, and we’ll solve it.”

ONWARD AND UPWARD

Because of C3M’s ability to develop and evaluate innovative solutions throughout the design process and implement them successfully during the construction phase, the company is excelling in design-build projects that bring the best value to the owner. C3M is currently part of the MD 355 Crossing project where a cross section of Clark civil groups have come together to design and construct a safe underground route between Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

With projects in cities across the country, the C3M team is currently focused on upcoming mass transit projects that bring much-needed infrastructure upgrades to the public. In late 2018, the team will begin a $28-million contract to install traction power, overhead contact, train control, and Light Rail Vehicle monitoring systems for Sound Transit Operations and Maintenance Facility: East in Bellevue, WA. C3M is also partnering with the Port Authority of Allegheny County on a design-build project to replace the existing emergency braking system with a modern radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag-based braking system. The project, located in Pittsburgh, PA, will be completed in 2021.

“We’re excited for the future,” comments Tomasco. “We’re strategically thinking about what’s best for our people, and where we can foster steady, healthy growth. We’re proud of our reputation—that we can fill our client’s needs with great service and quality. That we’re proactive problem solvers working in the best interest of the client. If you want to build trust, you not only have to be honest and ethical, but you also must be great at what you do. We have both.”

Learn more about C3M Power Systems and the electrical construction projects they've delivered.