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Improvements Take Flight at Bustling Philadelphia Airport

Wed September 27, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Chris Volker


Contractors have been cleared for landing at the Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia International Airport. Landing cranes, excavators and dozers that is, for a more than $500-million project to redevelop the airport’s international and commuter terminals.

The project, which was approved by the city of Philadelphia and US Airways in 1998, brings an improved international terminal by 2001, and a commuter terminal by 2000.

When completed, the $350-million International Terminal will be a 785,000 sq. ft., 4-level terminal with 12 new wide-body international gates.

Terminal F, or the Commuter Terminal, will boast 190,000 sq. ft. Connected to Terminal E, this $75-million project will provide 38 gates for commuter turbo-prop and regional jet aircraft, reports the Airport.

Other improvements include a 195-ft. ramp, operation tower, thermal plant, interstate highway/ airport arrival/departure roadway relocation, Sun Oil pipeline relocation, two new parking garages and renovations to the airport’s Terminal A.

Roadway Relocation

A big part of the expansion at the airport involves the provision of new roadway access. Driscoll Construction of Springhouse, PA, and Belbold Construction of Bristol, PA, are the construction managers of a the $72.5-million project to build new ramps to improve access between Interstate 95 and the Philadelphia International Airport. Michael Baker Jr. Inc. of Lester, PA, is providing the project management which consists of cost analysis, quality assurance, scheduling and more.

Construction has already begun with the new ramps ready to open in mid-2002, which is set to coincide with the opening of the new Terminal A. Among the interchange improvements are a new I-95 northbound exit ramp and an extension of the I-95 southbound ramp linking the departure roadway at the new Terminal One and the existing terminals.

The ramp developments will provide direct access to the new international terminal from both directions on I-95. The new hub will mean an increase in the number of passengers using US Airways international service through Philadelphia from an estimated 750,000 in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2010.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the project will eliminate signalized and stop intersections for arriving northbound travelers, and will separate airport and local traffic to relieve congestion.

“Philadelphia is one of the only cities in the nation that does not have direct access to its airport,” said Mark Cipollini, project manager, Michael J. Baker Jr. Inc. “The whole idea behind this project is to provide a more accessible route to the new terminal from Interstate 95 and increase the level of service to the airport. This will maintain a replacement approach from the now used Route 291.”

Baker is responsible for providing construction management and engineering services including development and management of a project control system; development and implementation of a document control system; design constructibility reviews; shop drawing monitoring and review; CPM scheduling review and monitoring; coordination of involved agencies; change order review and analysis; public relations and information support; incident management; conducting meetings; and researching and providing documentation for issue resolution.

Cipollini stated that there are a few challenges involved with a project of this kind. Environmental aspects of the job are definitely a major consideration. Not only does the construction site contain protected exceptional value wetlands throughout but there also is aquifer underneath which limits the pile depth to 35 ft. (10.6 m) so as not to pierce the underneath layer. The site’s other constraints are a limited amount of space, and railroad tracks which makes it sometimes difficult to work.

Currently, the clearing, excavating and driving of piles is taking place to build a major embankment. Conduit also is being arranged as well as prepping for undercut. After the embankment is completed, ramps will be built to create a giant loop that will swing over I-95 and then over a bridge to the airport.

“A lot of major equipment will be used for this project when the project construction is in full gear,” stated Cipollini. “Presently, a Cat 245 [for undercuts], a crane and a hammer is utilized. Drainage and electrical lines are being placed now. In the near future, 10 retaining walls and six bridges will be built requiring 100,000 meters of fill. This will require such equipment as 2CY backhoes, dump trucks and a D-5 dozer.”

Subcontractors on the Airport Ramp Project include Richard E. Pierson Construction for SME walls, earth work and milling on Bartram Avenue.

This highway portion is funded by PennDOT, and the airport portion is being totally funded by airport funds generated by Passenger Facility Charges.




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