Robert “Bob” L. Mendenhall, an asphalt recycling pioneer and founder of Nevada paving contracting giant Las Vegas Paving Corp., died on June 2 of cardiac arrest at age 90.
Still serving as CEO, he had been working 10-hour days until two weeks before his death, says company President Jay N. Smith. “Bob was still very engaged in the business to the end,” he says.
“Robert Mendenhall is a southern Nevada icon, serving as construction industry magnate and leader, advocate and mentor for over six decades,” says Nevada Dept. of Transportation spokesman Tony Illia. “Las Vegas Paving is one of the department’s largest contractors, successfully completing several large, technically complex and prominent projects. Under him, the company became known for consistent high-quality work with an eye toward efficiency and innovation.”
The 60-year-old contracting firm ranks at No. 188 on ENR’s Top 400 Contractors list, with $450 million in revenue last year.
The company used design-build on a $251.8-million, 5.8-mile widening of Interstate 15 North in Las Vegas—a first for the state—that resulted in a 7.5-month early completion in January 2010 with no accidents or claims. The project's success prompted the use of design-build for a $246.5-million, 7-mile widening of I-15 South, also finished by Las Vegas Paving in mid-2012. A portion of the job uses more than 1 million lb of recycled tires for a smoother, less noisy driving surface.
Other noteworthy company projects include the 1.5-mile-long asphalt Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 320-acre man-made Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, and a $225 million, 12.5-mile-long segment of Interstate 11 in Boulder City, Nev., finishing later this year.
Founded in October 1958, Las Vegas Paving is a self-performing union general contractor that is still family owned.
In 1970, Mendenhall began researching and developing processes and equipment for asphalt pavement recycling. His work led to America’s first 100% asphalt recycled freeway, finished in 1975, using Mendenhall-designed equipment.
One year later, Mendenhall received a U.S. patent for a softening agent technology in asphalt pavement recycling.
This self-contained revolutionary invention is now used worldwide to fix potholes. Mendenhall lectured widely and authored several technical articles, helping develop U.S. Federal Highway Administration specifications and guidelines. At his death, he held 47 different patents.
"Mendenhall was the nation’s leading proponent of hot mix recycling in the road construction industry and continually wrote numerous papers on the subject to universities and public agencies including suggested specifications and guidelines for the Federal Highway Administration," says an online company biography.
In 1977, he was cited by the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the same year he started developing the single port direct-fired method of recycling 100% asphalt aggregate compositions that led to the mini cycle-plan, which helped to solve the national pothole problem.
Las Vegas Paving pursues public and private work across eight divisions, including paving, earthwork, trucking, materials, underground, environmental, traffic control and concrete. During the peak of the region's building boom, in 2006, the contractor's asphalt production climbed to 2 million tons with 10 million tons of aggregate production.
ENR Southwest named Las Vegas Paving Contractor of the Year in 2016.
Mendenhall served as president of the Southern Nevada General Contracto’s Association and Associated General Contractors, Las Vegas chapter. He additionally spent 10 years on the gubernatorial appointed Nevada State Contractors Board.
Among many awards, he was named to the the Nevada Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Business Hall of Fame in 2015. Click here for a video testimonial.
In 2006, the university opened the Mendenhall Innovation and Design Laboratory to promote technology and engineering. He also helped build an $11.7-million, 38,000-sq-ft practice facility for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team, named the Mendenhall Center, which opened in 2012.
“He was a great supporter of the college,” said UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering Dean Rama Venkat in an email statement. “We will miss him dearly, but his legacy, innovation, entrepreneurship and philanthropy will continue.”