Hartsfield Jackson Runway Soars Over Atlanta Highway

Tue July 05, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Lisa Coston

Contractors have completed the latest phase of construction of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport’s (HJA) fifth runway, giving commuters caught in the bumper-to-bumper traffic across the 10 lanes of busy Interstate 285 around HJA a huge vista to behold while they wait.

A 1,200-ft. (366 m) , 486-ft. wide (148 m) connector bridge looms 70 ft. (21 m) above the motorists’ heads, spanning the width of all lanes of traffic, which will allow people to watch a Boeing 747 literally land over their heads.

The bridge links two-thirds of the runway located on the east side, with the remainder of the runway on the west side.

The main bridge, along with a parallel 450 ft.-long, (137 m) 450 ft.-wide taxiway bridge, will be able to withstand loads of more than 1 million lbs.

The steel and concrete structure, built by Archer Western Contractors Ltd. is an integral part of HJA’s on-going, $5.4 billion Hartsfield Jackson Development Program (HJDP), which includes the runway, an expansion of HJA’s East International Terminal, the consolidated rental car facility, a new South Terminal, support facilities and other airfield improvements.

Under the auspices of Hartsfield Jackson Construction Management, as of March 2005, 5R Constructors of Atlanta moved approximately 17.5 million cu. yds (13.4 million cu m) of fill material to build the embankment for the 9,000-ft. long (2,743 m) runway and taxiways to connect to the existing airfield.

Connecticut-based Lane Construction is completing the last major work on the runway, along with 14 subcontractors, which includes the pavement of the runway, taxiways, service roads, along with installing electrical and drainage systems.

Since March 2005, Lane’s 50-person crew has been working nine-hour days, scraping and leveling dirt, as well as filling in and around the bridge and the runway.

According to Jim Ward, Lane’s senior project engineer for the runway construction, the job is right on schedule.

“We started in March and we are pretty much on schedule,” he said. “5R came in and they just finished the excavation and fill. We have the dirt work, soil cement mixing, paving and installation of the light banks that go with it. Those are the big parts of the job that are left.”

Although there were no spuds to be found within the soil on-site, the Lane management team and mechanical staff found an inexpensive way to remove rocks larger than 1 in. in diameter, by using a common piece of farming equipment — a potato picker.

“I am happy to say our project management team and mechanical staff was right on the money by finding simple machine to perform a complicated task,” said Farid Haman, Lane Construction district manager.

Since they had never used a potato picker before on any construction project and because the machine is not meant for a heavy construction job, there was a concern that it would break down under the stress of the job-at-hand.

“This machine is not meant for a heavy construction task such as this and our major concern was it would break down under the stress and demand of this operation,” Haman explained. “Our mechanical staff and field supervisors exercised enough tender touch to accomplish a great result.”

Besides using rented John Deere scrapers to cut the fill down to grade, Lane is using a Cat motorgrader, with a Top Con Global Positioning System (GPS) loaded on top, in order to trim the grade and get the soil ready for paving.

The GPS locator allows the operator to “grade authentically,” and basically takes the guesswork out of the job.

“By showing the grader where it is and setting the blade correctly to trim the dirt … the driver can pretty much just sit behind the controls and the GPS does the rest of the work,” explained Ward.

Lane rents the grader from Pennsylvania’s Beckwith Construction.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Beckwith and we use them a lot,” Ward said.

Illinois-based subcontractor Mt. Carmel Construction is using a modified mill Cat mixer to blend and spread the 9-in. soil and cement base that is needed for the first layer of the runway itself and the surrounding taxiways and tie-ins.

Once the soil and cement base is poured, the underdrains and the runway lights will be built and then the final paving begins.

Approximately 220,000 cu. yds. (168,000 cu m) of concrete, churned by using an on-site double drum mixer, will be poured, followed by 54,000 tons (49,000 t) of asphalt to top off the final layer of pavement for the runway and surrounding taxiways.

According to Ward, the on-site double drum is one of the biggest and fastest concrete mixers.

“From what I understand, the record amount of concrete mixed in one day was 6,000 yards.”

JACO Airfield Construction, based in Eatonton, GA, will set up the approximately 3,000 runway light cans that will guide jets to a safe landing and aid in a swift takeoff.

Lane crews will construct the vault building that holds the 147 mi. of wiring for approximately 4,000 volts of electricity that will power the runway lights, as well as installing 93 mi. of underground duct banks.

Paving for the west side of the runway began in late June and continues through late December. Ward estimated the paving for the east side of the 150-ft. runway will start in September.

In January 2006, Phase III of the project begins, which includes making the fills, embankments and finishing the tie-in to the bridge.

With final construction scheduled to be completed by March 2006, the fifth runway is scheduled to open in May 2006, at an estimated cost of $1.24 billion.CEG

Caption:A Cat motorgrader cruises across the job site.