New Logan Runway Cleared for Takeoff

Tue January 23, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Kip Fry

Thanksgiving Day 2006 was definitely a good day to give thanks at Logan International Airport in Boston.

That’s when its newest runway (14-32) was opened for use, something that should alleviate much of the airplane congestion that happens when planes wait to take off.

Delays have become a major problem at airports around the country. Authorities at Logan have decided that this new 5,000-ft. (1,515 m) runway will help congestion by moving smaller airplanes to the different runway.

“You would see 10 big planes lined up to take off with five smaller ones in between,” said Jack Murphy, vice president of estimating and engineering of McCourt Construction of South Boston, Mass.

Richard Walsh, media relations manager of the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort), agreed.

“We didn’t have enough runways,” he added.

Logan is the 17th busiest airport in the country, but because it is surrounded on three sides by water and has only 2,400 acres (9,600 ha) of land to work with, it is difficult to expand. As a result, it has become one of the worst airports in the country for delayed flights. Of all airports throughout the country, Logan has the most regional carrier activity, so the new runway will allow 75,000 more flights per year to and from the airport.

McCourt has worked on many construction projects at Logan over the past 60 years. In fact, McCourt has worked on at least one project there in each year since 1946. One of the largest jobs was done during the ’70s, when McCourt helped lengthen Runway 15 to make it 10,000 ft. (303 m) long.

Despite all that work, no runways have been built there in the past 30 years. Because of a lack of neighboring real estate there is simply no more room to build any others, so this will be the last one. Runway 14-32 covers a relatively short stretch, designed specifically to deal with the overflow of small planes that often cause delays when larger planes are waiting to take off.

Much of the work is like building a new highway, Murphy said, but in this case there are many different federal regulations to follow. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) required that the pavement and slope meet its criterion. For example, the pavement must be 13 in. (33 cm) thick.

The asphalt has its own needs. McCourt used a mix design called P-401 that uses lime as an additive, something found primarily in the western states.

“It supposedly strengthens the asphalt,” Murphy explained. The mix also consists of 20 percent of RAP product (recycled asphalt product).

In all, a total of 150,000 tons (135,000 t) of hot mix asphalt was used, along with 270,000 cu. yds. (205,200 cu m) of unclassed excavation material, such as gravel, and 90,000 cu. yds. (68,400 cu m) of pavement excavation. But that wasn’t all there was to the project. Before any pavement could be put down, work on drainage and lighting also had to be completed, so many cables and pipes were installed first, including 2 mi. (3.2 km) of RCP drain and 3 mi. (4.8 km) of underdrain. Then there were 70 mi. (112 km) of power and communication cable.

Among the last things to be done were the 4-in. wide (10.2 cm) pavement markings of which 50 mi. (80 km) were needed. As a safety precaution, 10-ft. (3 m) blast walls also were installed at the end of the runway. Mitigation efforts also have taken place at the Hyatt Hotel.

A “Notice to Proceed” for the runway was granted by the FAA on Aug. 2, 2006, which allowed its opening in November.

Although the new runway will not have a direct influence on the larger planes flying in and out of Logan, the effect will be indirect. The larger planes simply will not have to wait so long to take off, so there will be fewer delays, a major problem for the airline industry.

“We have a full runway configuration now,” said Walsh. “Now there will be a 25 percent reduction in delays.”

The work took two years to complete and was on schedule, according to Murphy. On top of that, everything was done without any accidents.

The runway is relatively short and can be used when the winds come in from the northeast or southwest at a speed of 10 knots or more. As a result, planes can only land and take off from the southeast, according to Murphy. A Hyatt Hotel stands at the northwest end of the runway, so no planes can approach from that direction.

A number of subcontractors worked with McCourt Construction throughout the duration of the project. Aggregate Industries of Peabody, Mass., handled the paving, while Mass Bay Electrical of East Boston, Mass., did the electrical work. Among the other primary subcontractors were Seal Coating Inc., of Hingham, Mass., and Highway Safety Solutions of Hanover, Mass., which did the striping.

The total cost of the work is estimated to be $53 million. It is all part of a much larger modernization project at Logan, which has been in the works since 1995. That work includes having several terminals upgraded and an elevated moving walkway between them.

Murphy said that MassPort is a good organization to work with on such projects, such as in the coordination of airfield activities.

MassPort actually assigned one of its own employees to oversee the project on a full-time basis.

“I can’t say enough good about MassPort operations,” he said. “Without them, it would have been much more difficult.” CEG

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