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Expansion Project Takes Off at New Hampshire Airport

Wed February 16, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Cynthia Hawkins Baldwin

New Hampshire’s largest airport, located in the city of Manchester, is midway through a $320-million rejuvenation project. As part of an improvement project that began in 1993 with the construction of a new terminal building, the airport, located about 64 kilometers (40 mi.) north of Boston, MA, is to be completed in 2005. The airport also will boast new taxiways, taxi bridges, a 4,800 space parking facility, an Airfield Rescue and Fire Fighting Building, a private air terminal and two runway extension projects.

According to Richard Fixler, assistant airport director of engineering and planning the runway extension projects were needed to bring the runways into Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) compliance. “The runways were constructed in the 1940s and the extensions are needed to meet current FAA criteria for safety. The FAA made Manchester and Providence [Rhode Island] a priority in funding,” Fixler said.”

In addition to the compliance issue, the new runways will improve service for passengers and take some of the load off Boston’s busy Logan International Airport. According to Fixler, the longer and raised runways will allow heavier planes to land and take off, thus creating better service out of the Manchester Airport.

The airport has just two runways and both are under construction. Each runway expansion has its own general contractor, due to the time constraints and special circumstances of each.

George Cairns and Sons Inc. of Methuen, MA, has been contracted to extend Runway 624. The $9.5-million privately funded project began in August 1998 and is slated for completion in July. The primary purpose of this project was to extend and raise the existing runway.

To begin the project, Maine Drilling & Blasting excavated 190,000 cubic meters (250,000 cu. yds.) of material. According to Glenn Cairns of George Cairns and Sons Inc., these materials were used on site to raise the level of the runway with the excess being transported to Runway 35 via Cat 769 off highway trucks. A Komatsu PC1000 LC is the primary machine used for the excavation and loading work. Additional equipment used in the excavation process were Cat 980 and 950 loaders, and Cat 345 and 330 excavators.

The next phase of construction consisted of electrical and drainage work. Moulson Electric of Sanford, ME, was contracted for the electrical portion and George Cairns and Sons Inc. conducted the drainage portion of the project.

The 68,400 cubic meters (90,000 cu. yds.) of processed gravel was used as sub-base materials. A Cat 834B rubber-wheel dozer was used to place the gravel. The materials were spread and leveled with Cat D8L and D6 dozers. The finish work was completed with a Cat 140 grader.

A 6-meter (20 ft.) concrete retaining wall is being constructed by Concrete Systems of Hudson, NH to maintain the slope of the runway.

Three Mack water trucks and an Elgin Sweeper were used for dust control. This was particularly vital in this project, as the dust could potentially interfere with the visibility of the airplanes. George Cairns and Sons Inc. owns all equipment it used on the this project.

“The biggest challenges we face on this job are security, safety and training issues. We also had to operate on a tight time frame so that the runway wasn’t out of service for too long,” Cairns said. The security issues consisted of background checks and special training for any employee working in the secure area. Employees in the secure area need to have badges and take a driving and safety class in order to comply. According to Cairns, the company has 35 employees on site.

To complete the project, 72,000 metric tons (90,000 tons) of asphalt will be placed. Continental Paving Co. of Londonderry, NH, is a subcontractor.

Barletta Engineering Corporation of Seabrook, NH, is the general contractor for Runway 35. This runway is being extended and raised through a $5-million FAA grant. According to Fixler, the runway also includes the construction of a category three instrument landing system, which aids pilots during landing.

Runway 35 had a different focus than Runway 624, in that 84,018 cubic meters (1.1 million cu. yds.) of structural fill were needed to raise and extend the runway. According to Kirk Huehls, project manager, material was supplied from three sources. Excess material from George Cairns and Sons Inc. was hauled over, privately owned land adjacent to the runway was excavated, and material on-site was used to complete the project which began on June 9, 1999 and is slated for completion in November.

Saunders Drilling and Blasting of Hudson, MA, is handling the excavation of on-site materials. A Komatsu PC750 LC loads material every 16 minutes from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. which equates to 3,800 cubic meters (5,000 cu. yds.) of material per day or 55,000 truck loads for the entire project, according to Huehls. The materials are trucked via a fleet of six Volvo A35C trucks through EAN Trucking of Dedham, MA.

After the material is dumped, the trucks return to the pile for another load. Each 60-centimeter (2 ft.) lift is 95 percent compacted via an Ingersoll-Rand roller 110 and a Cat 98 dozer places the material. An 11,400-liter (3,000-gal.) water truck is on site for dust control.

“The biggest challenge that we faced on the project was the sheer volume of material needed and locating it,” Huehls said. He said there are 15 employees on site on a typical workday.

In 1999, 2.8 million passengers traveled through Manchester Airport. According to Fixler, 3.5 million passengers are expected to use this facility in 2000. With the improvements, this number is projected to climb and take some of the heat off Boston’s Logan International.

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