FROM THE GROUND DOWN

Monterey Regional Airport  ––  MONTEREY, CA

Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. retained Cornerstone Earth Group, Inc. to provide environmental and geotechnical engineering services at the Monterey Regional Airport for the Runway Safety Area (RSA) Project. Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading planning, engineering, and design consulting firms with over 2,800 staff members in more than 75 offices across the United States, offering full services in a wide range of disciplines including design services for airports. Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. and Cornerstone worked closely together to meet the competing needs of aging infrastructure and space demands while making improvements without impacting airport operation activities and airline schedules.

Cornerstone provided cost-effective geotechnical engineering solutions for the runway safety area and access road based on their individual design requirements and variable subsurface conditions. Monterey Regional Airport is located north of Salinas Highway (Highway 68) in Monterey, California. This project consisted of three main components: 1) re-configuring the RSA at the eastern end of the airport site to meet FAA grading criteria for the RSA, 2) constructing a new maintenance road around the east end of the RSA, connecting the south and north sides of the airport on the north side of the runway, and 3) re-configuring the west end of the airport to meet FAA grading criteria for the RSA and constructing the maintenance road. To meet FAA grading criteria for the RSA on the east side required construction of a tiered retaining wall system on its south side to support the fill needed. The tiered wall was up to about 85 feet high. The wall was constructed as a Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) wall restrained by layers of geogrid. The face of the wall was split into 10-foot vertical sections and at 10-foot intervals the wall steps back 10 feet with a 4:1 (horizontal:vertical) slope between wall sections, allowing for planting strips.

Cuts and fills were required to construct the new maintenance road. The cuts into the eastern slope ranged up to about 60 feet. Along the road alignment, the cuts required retaining walls on both sides of the road in some areas. The cuts for the access road were supported by soil nail walls in cut areas and MSE walls in fill areas. As with the wall supporting the fills for the RSA, the face of the soil nail walls were split into about 10-foot vertical sections and at about 10-foot horizontal intervals the wall steps back 10 feet with a 4:1 (horizontal:vertical) slope between wall sections, allowing for planting strips.

As part of the RSA Project, new HMA pavement sections capable of supporting 727 and 757 aircraft were placed in the middle third of the RSA. Appurtenant utilities and pavements were also installed within the access road area.

cornerstone's added value benefit:

  • Assisted Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. in meeting the FAA grading requirements for site investigation and construction QA activities at Monterey and at other airports, including San Jose, Salinas, Hollister, Modesto, Livermore, Columbia, and Stockton.
  • Implemented night shift work and staffing the job on a 24-hour a day basis when needed to not delay project construction schedules.
  • Provided engineering consultation during construction to address conditions encountered during the project construction.
  • Provided cost-effective geotechnical engineering solutions for the runway safety area and access road based on their individual design requirements and variable subsurface conditions.

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Our History

Although Cornerstone Earth Group, Inc. (Cornerstone) officially opened its doors in 2007, the seeds that grew into Cornerstone were planted years earlier. The founders originally met at Lowney Associates, where Cornerstone President and CEO, Ron Helm, had been since the late 1980s, eventually becoming COO, and later, President. But they became unhappy with the direction the company took when they were acquired by a larger public engineering firm in 2003. The future Cornerstone founders found themselves in agreement that the new company placed too much focus on dollars and cents and too little on customer service.

Eventually, the lack of priority given to the client’s needs became unacceptable, and Mr. Helm, along with Barry Butler (retired), Scott Fitinghoff (deceased), Laura Knutson (retired), Danh Tran, John Dye, Peter Langtry and Ron Massone launched the fledgling enterprise. They opened for business in Sunnyvale, California where, although it has since expanded, Cornerstone’s original office is still located today. Soon after, Kurt Soenen came on board. Before long, the company opened a second office in Walnut Creek, California.

In the beginning Cornerstone had no employees; the Principals drew no salary; and the Sunnyvale office was so wide open that they would amuse themselves and release the stress of working long hours by holding chair races on the premises. Who eventually became the chair racing champion remains a subject of contentious debate. The founding Principals generated their own business; performed the field work; performed the engineering analyses; and prepared their own documents.

After a year or two, enough business began to roll in that the first few employees were hired and, although they might not have known it, were actually paid more than the founders in the beginning. Over the next few years, the Principals found themselves happily surprised as some early successes occurred and the amount of business generated significantly increased. As an example, Mr. Helm describes an early meeting he had with Facebook when it was a small privately owned company. Even though at the time Facebook’s projects were small, Cornerstone treated their business the same as they would their largest client, and as a result Facebook remains a loyal client to this day. Eventually, many more Bay Area giants retained the services of Cornerstone Earth Group such as Adobe, Google and LinkedIn, to name a few. 

As the company has increased in size, emphasis was placed on organic growth, with most new customers coming through recommendations and word-of-mouth. It is also a core belief held by Cornerstone that to continue the growth of the company it is critical to follow our four corners of success:  1) Be Exceptional; 2) Add Value; 3) Learn and Improve; and 4) Have Fun. In addition, it was clear that Cornerstone also emphasized providing employees with a clear path forward to success by consistently creating opportunities for employees to grow with the company.

Mr. Helm is quick to point to the selfless teamwork and genuine friendship among the founders, along with their client-first approach and cost-effective practical recommendations, as the primary reasons the company at first survived, and eventually, thrived.