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Meeker Airport Makes Smooth Landing

Runway 3-21 at the county-owned airport had reached a point of wear and deterioration that required full reconstruction and upgrades to remain compliant with the FAA.

Fri December 26, 2014 - West Edition
Jeff Winke

Meeker Airport is critical to the residents and businesses in Rio Blanco County. Located in Meeker, Colo., the airport is designated as a C-II general aviation airport by the FAA, which means the airport can accommodate aircraft with wingspan of less than 79 ft. (24 m). Private aircraft for energy companies, including the mining niche, as well as ranchers, fishing and hunting outfitters, are all flown in and out of Meeker Airport and it accommodates charter service for both passengers and cargo.

Runway 3-21 at the county-owned Meeker Airport had reached a point of wear and deterioration that required full reconstruction and upgrades to remain compliant with the FAA’s C-II requirements.

The project, which was awarded to Fiore & Sons Inc., Denver, Colo., was a two-stage project with a contract value of $12.5 million. Construction consisted of the demolition of the existing 60-ft. (18 m) wide by 6,500-ft. (1,981 m) long runway and the construction of a new runway to meet C-II runway safety area and longitudinal standards. The new runway was widened to 100 ft. (30 m) — nearly doubling its width — and remained 6,500-ft. (1,981 m) long. The runway ties into the existing apron connector with a teacup style turnaround on the 21 end of the runway.

Fiore & Sons completed the demotion and removed 43,000 sq. yd. (35,953 sq m) of roto-milled asphalt in preparation for the site conditioning, grading and paving completed by United Companies of Mesa County, headquartered in Grand Junction, Colo. United Companies employs approximately 400 workers. Between the dirt and paving crews, the company had approximately 20 workers on the Meeker Airport site.

“We were responsible for base course and paving of the new runway and the overall construction of the large apron and taxiway,” said Jeff Boone, project manager of United Companies. “We needed to complete our portions of the combined projects within the eight-month timeline for the whole project, so our timing was tight.”

United Companies had two major responsibilities in the project: the dirt and stonework to create the subbase and the finish paving on the runway, apron and the aircraft turnaround. In addition to the main runway, United Companies paved a 650 by 320 ft. (198 by 97.5 m) apron and a 1,200 long by 50 ft. (365 by 15 m) wide taxiway.

After Fiore & Sons completed the demo of the old runway, United Companies came on site and moved 100,000 cu. yd. (76,455 cu m) of dirt for the large apron and widened runway. Between the two areas, the company placed 70,000 tons (63,502 t) or 35,000 cu. yd. (26,759 cu m) of p154 and p209 crushed aggregate base course in 6-in. (15 m) lifts with the company’s three Caterpillar 140H motorgraders equipped with Topcon machine control.

For the paving, the United Companies placed 23,000 tons of FAA-spec HMA in two lifts of 2 in. (5 cm) deep. To meet stringent FAA requirements, the finished paving, after leveling by a 16 ft. (4.9 m) straight edge, must be within 3/16 of an inch. There was no room for variance.

“We’ve paved a lot of airports and our crew understands the quality standard we must reach,” said Rick Bottenfield, paving manager of United Companies. “The finished paving is the final and most noticed step in achieving the FAA tolerances.”

United Companies has four paving crews. The company owns four asphalt paving machines — a Caterpillar AP-1055E, two Cat AP655Ds and a Volvo paver. Additionally, the company has a Roadtec SB-2500 Shuttle Buggy material transfer vehicle and various vibratory compactors.

Bottenfield assigned the highway/airport paving crew that uses the SB-2500 Shuttle Buggy to the Meeker Airport project, “because I wanted the advantage of continuous paving the Shuttle Buggy provides.”

The Shuttle Buggy can store up to 15 tons (13.6 t) of asphalt mix, allowing haul vehicles to unload as soon as they arrive. The large storage capacity is said to not only help reduce truck cycles and hauling costs, but provide an uninterrupted, continual flow of material to the paver.

The SB-2500 features an anti-segregation auger, which remixes materials to address aggregate and temperature segregation issues. Pavement lifespan tests, as they relate to temperature segregation during the paving process, have shown that a temperature differential of less than seven-degrees Celsius in the mat behind the paver are key to even compaction and therefore pavement durability.

Infrared imaging capturing paved surfaces where the Shuttle Buggy MTV has been used reveals a quality advantage. In infrared imaging tests conducted by Roadtec in the United States as well as in Europe, the results show the machine consistently remixes to achieve temperature differential below the seven-degree temperature threshold.

With the Meeker Airport project, United Companies believed that the Shuttle Buggy was instrumental in preventing asphalt mix segregation at so many points during the paving process.

“Even though our production plant happened to be located very close to the site, we understand that a lot can happen to the FAA-spec HMA even during a short transport,” Bottenfield said. “The Shuttle Buggy gave us the distinct advantage of continuous paving by ensuring the material is thoroughly mixed and at the right temp – we’re not waiting for the plant or delivery trucks since the shuttle buggy has ample storage capacity to ensure the continual flow of asphalt to the paver.”

Bottenfield credited the Shuttle Buggy with helping to “ensure we had almost no rework on this project — we had just a few spots requiring grinding.”

The United Companies acquired its Shuttle Buggy MTV from a sister company that had upgraded to a newer model. Currently, the company appears to be the only contractor in western Colorado that has a MTV.

“Because we have the Shuttle Buggy, we have a competitive advantage since we’re seeing Federal Highway Administration specs coming through specifically requiring that a Shuttle Buggy be used, because they know the machine offers quality and consistency advantages,” said Bottenfield.

The final International Roughness Index of the recently completed Meeker Airport runway surface was well within the FAA specifications. Both the dirt and paving crews of United Companies were pleased with the work they’ve completed on the now upgraded Meeker Airport.

As Boone said. “We can’t argue about the quality of the finished results…the smoothness of the runway pavement can speak for itself.”

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at

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