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JFK’s Bay Runway Reopens Ahead of Schedule

Wed July 07, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

As New York State continues to operate under emergency spending bills while its legislature wrestles with the problem of closing a deficit, a halt in payments has affected more than 500 construction projects across the state.

One project that was not affected by the budget impasse was the vital Bay Runway reconstruction project, which recently wrapped up at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. In fact, the Bay Runway reopened ahead of schedule on June 28.

It’s easy to understand why this project was so important. Since it first opened in 1948, John F. Kennedy Airport, and very often the Bay Runway itself, has been New York’s gateway to the world, serving millions of passengers each year, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions in economic activity.

“If Kennedy Airport is to remain a portal to and from this city and our country, we must continue to invest in it through necessary infrastructure upgrades,” said Gov. David Paterson. Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward has even described the project as an “economic stimulus in real time.”

The Bay Runway handles approximately half of JFK’s departures but to carry out the project, the runway needed to be shut down for four months. As a result, with about a third of JFK’s traffic and half its departures diverted, there had been a profound ripple effect at airports across the country.

But closing the runway for four months was felt to be a better alternative than a longer project schedule that also would include two to three years’ night work. Although travel would be more difficult than usual for a time, the end result would be a runway able to accommodate larger planes and, if need be, the space shuttle, for which it serves as a secondary or emergency landing space.

So Much to Do,

So Little Time

A very tight schedule was involved. Work on the job began on March 1, 20l0, with the shutdown of the runway and work had to be completed by the end of July.

Prime contractor Tutor Perini Corporation, based in Sylmar, Calif., was awarded the $204 million contract to oversee the project on behalf of the Port Authority in July 2009.

Stretching 14,572 ft. (4,441 m), the Bay Runway, one of four at JFK, is among the longest commercial runways in the country. It was widened from 150 to 200 ft. (46 to 61 m). Six in. (15 cm) of the existing asphalt runway was milled and rebuilt with 18 in. (46 cm) of concrete, while hot mix asphalt was used to rebuild the shoulders.

The job also includes constructing two new taxiways, to be angled in such a way that planes can more quickly move from their terminals to takeoff points, thus improving travel times. In addition, new runway lighting and electric feeder systems for future aids to navigation will be installed.

Intercounty Paving Associates of NY LLC, based in Hicksville, N.Y., worked on the job as a subcontractor.

“Intercounty is responsible for the milling on the project as well as 280,000 tons of asphalt paving and fine grading of subgrade materials. Our affiliate, Flushing Asphalt, is the asphalt supplier for the job,” said Intercounty General Manager Frank Lizza Jr.

The company also was responsible for hauling 100,000 tons (80,718 t) of drainage stone and 100,000 tons of sand for the concrete operations.

For paving, Intercounty used three Caterpillar 1055 pavers and a Caterpillar 655 paver, among other paving equipment.

Intercounty was involved in the 120-day shutdown portion of the job, which included installing all the drainage, electrical, milling, paving and concrete work.

Intercounty accomplished a notable feat in early May.

“We put down over 115,000 tons to date. Most notably we installed over 8,850 tons of asphalt on Saturday, May 2 alone, a milestone for total tons delivered to JFK in one shift,” Lizza said. “We used four Caterpillar 1055 pavers to achieve this and 30 Live-bottoms. We averaged 2,000 tons per crew per day, using two crews Monday to Friday and four on Saturday. It is an enormous challenge that we are meeting every day.”

Vital Choices

Lizza believes the right equipment makes all the difference, from both quality of installation and reliability standpoints.

“We are very meticulous in the equipment we choose … you don’t sign up for a job like this without bringing your best equipment,” he said.

While the bulk of equipment Intercounty used on the job is company-owned, it also purchased some machinery for the project.

“Intercounty bought a Caterpillar AP-1055D and Caterpillar AP-655D pavers along with a M322D wheeled excavator. They also have several machines on rent to complete this job, where the time constraints they are working under make it so unique,” said Bill Grater, sales representative of Foley Inc., Piscataway, N.J.

Describing Foley’s service as “wonderful,” Intercounty’s Lizza added, “Foley was given a deadline and they met it. When delivery time was getting close they supplied us with a loaner paver at no cost, just to make sure the new machines were up and running without any glitches. Once we had two weeks’ worth of service on the new machines we were confident we could release the loaner.”

Intercounty also used its Caterpillar M322D excavator for the installation of electrical items, for which the company also is subcontractor. The company also rented a Caterpillar D6 dozer from Foley for fine grading work.

Foley Paving Specialist Walt Suk was impressed with the work Intercounty is doing at JFK.

“We visited the runway and I could not believe what a tremendous undertaking the project is. It is the most extensive and complete construction site that I have ever seen. The logistics and time constraints that they are operating under are so impressive, and they are even ahead of schedule, which is another testament to their work ethic,” he said.

Concrete Conversion

Cement for the runway was supplied by the Lehigh Cement Company, headquartered in Irving, Texas.

“We are supplying IS cement from our Cementon [Catskill], N.Y., facility,” said Gardner Kavanagh, sales manager of Lehigh Cement. “IS cement is an interground product consisting of Portland Cement and Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag [GGBFS]. The specification from the Port Authority called for a minimum of 40 percent GGBFS in the concrete mix. The Lehigh product meets this requirement and makes it easier on the plant personnel when producing concrete, being that it is one all inclusive product.”

“IS cement being used on this project helped on this job due to a tight plant configuration and made it easier on Tutor Perini dealing with one raw material rather than two. This allowed them to use all of their silo space for the interground product rather than maintaining two separate silos to supply the job with the individual products,” he added.

Conversion to a concrete runway is expected to increase its working life to more than 40 years as opposed to the eight years expected of an asphalt runway. The scope of the overall job is further demonstrated by the fact it entails removing 100,000 cu. yds. (76,455 cu m) of material from runway, shoulders and associated areas before reconstruction can begin.

Tutor Perini used a GOMACO GP-4000, equipped with a stringless control system, will slipform the new runway in 25 ft. (7.6 m) wide paving passes, 18 in. thick.

The GOMACO GP-4000, with the new G22 digital controller, is a preferred paver for airport projects around the world. The two-track or four-track pavers, capable of paving passes up to 50 ft. (15.2 m) wide, has worked on Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Ga.; Moscow Airport in Moscow, Russia; Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Fla.; Perm Airport in Perm, Russia; the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah; and other airports across the United States and the entire world.

Eye in the Sky

Intercounty used a combination laser-Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) on multiple Roadtec RX-900 cold planers. The system is unique in that it combines laser and GPS. A transmitter integrated into the system sends out a wall of laser light 33 ft. (10 m) tall and up to 2,000 ft. (610 m) in diameter. Contractors may link up to four transmitters for a total reach of 8,000 horizontal ft. (2,438 m) and 132 vertical ft. (40 m), providing the capability of operating a number of machines equipped to accept signals.

While the GNSS component plots the machine’s location, the laser component guides the grader to position and elevates the blade precisely.

Setting up the system was not without difficulty.

Tutor Perini surveyors set up the job site for machine control using Intercounty’s GR-3 base station. However, GR-3’s 1-watt UHF radio left “dead zones” at both ends of the runway, which is typical in radio signal-dense airfield environments. A 35-watt external radio was therefore set up, allowing the base station to be positioned along the runway near the middle of the job site, providing full radio coverage without interference from voice traffic.

Also complicating matters were several unseasonably large snowfalls during February. Control points had to be cleared and drifting snow routinely refilled control point holes. These weather conditions would have made the conventional method of gridding and marking out the runway in time for early March milling difficult to impossible, and made it clear that an alternative method of elevation control would be beneficial.

For this job, the fine-milling machines were set at 18 in. (minus-1.50 ft.) and the bulk-milling machines were set at 16 in. (minus-1.36 ft.).

Paving Post 9/11

An unusual aspect of the project, although not unexpected given its sensitive location, involved security checks carried out by the Secure Worker Access Consortium (S.W.A.C.) on all workers on the job. As a further precaution, the runway itself was sealed off behind fencing, razor wire, and barriers, with only one exit.

A True Stimulus

When the job kicked off in the summer of 2009, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, thanked Gov. Paterson on behalf of members of the building and construction trades “for recognizing the importance of large infrastructure projects, particularly in these economic times,” adding that “money invested in this project will translate directly into hundreds of jobs that pay good wages with health insurance and pension benefits for working men and women in our industry.”

The Bay Runway reconstruction has and will continue to create a significant number of jobs, which the Port Authority estimates between 1,000 and 2,500, including those involved in production of concrete and asphalt, construction and installation of aeronautical lighting as well as support services after the runway was completed. Overall, they estimate the project will have an economic impact of approximately $800 million between various activities and wages.

For the project, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is contributing $292.4 million, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is providing $83.9 million, and the remaining $15 million comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Intercounty’s contracts with Perini (Intercounty itself, 4L Equipment Leasing, and Flushing Asphalt) total upwards of $40 Million, including all asphalt supply. CEG

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