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One More Phase Takes Off at O’Hare International Airport

The latest phase is part of the O’Hare Modernization Program, an $8.7 billion plan that’s been in the works since it was announced in 2001.

Thu October 22, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Lori Tobias

Yet one more phase of the nation’s largest airport construction project was finished earlier this month with the commissioning of Runway 10R-28 L and the new South Air Traffic Control Tower at O’Hare International Airport. It’s all part of the O’Hare Modernization Program, an $8.7 billion plan that’s been in the works since it was announced in 2001.

Runway 10R-28L runs east to west and is located on the south airfield. It will be used primarily as an arrival runway and will substantially improve O’Hare’s capacity and efficiency, according to a press release from the Chicago Department of Aviation.

“When we invest in O’Hare’s future, we are helping Chicago continue to grow economically and compete on a global scale,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The new runway will reduce delays and increase airport capacity — a positive development for travelers and businesses who rely on O’Hare. And while O’Hare may be the busiest airport in the world, our goal is to make it the best airport in the world. With the help of this new runway and our other investments, we are on track to achieving that goal.”

The $516 million runway was built through the execution of several construction contracts, including main contracts for east utilities and the guard post, site preparation, paving and electric and navigation aids and fiber optic transmission systems. Each these were design/bid/build projects with pre-established completion milestones and associated liquidated damages, said a representative of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA).

It is the fifth east-west parallel runway at O’Hare and the fourth new runway component opened since 2008 as part of the modernization program. The runway is 7,500 ft. (2,286 m) in length and 150 ft. (45.7 m) wide and includes a 7,500 ft. (2,286 m) long east-west parallel taxiway (Taxiway W) immediately north of the runway and a 2,000-ft. (609 m) long connecting taxiway to the south airfield (Taxiway AA). Construction on the $516 million runway and taxiway system began in spring 2011.

“The key challenges associated with the development of the runway were addressed with previously completed projects that enabled the construction of Runway 10C-28C, and the extension of Runway 10L,” a representative of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said. “These included the relocation of multiple on-airport facilities and the demolition of more than 600 residences in the Village of Bensenville. Some of the on-airport facilities that were relocated did not provide an airport function, such as the relocation of a portion of a state-owned roadway [Irving Park Road] and a portion of Union Pacific Railroad line.”

The challenges were overcome largely through collaboration with other key players, the representative said.

“This included not only the synergy from all members of the O’Hare Modernization Program and the leadership of the Chicago Department of Aviation, but also the cooperation of key stakeholders outside of the organization. Creative and proactive project planning proved to be effective in anticipating and addressing project challenges.”

The project called for the use of both common and speciality equipment, including:

• Guntert & Zimmerman concrete paving machine with an automated dowel bar inserter, also used in the earlier construction of Runway 10C-28C

• Grooving machines

• Articulated trucks

•Asphalt paving machines

• Excavators

• Dozers

• Compactors

• Sheepsfoot rollers

• Motorgraders

• Auger trucks

• Cable pulling truck

• Coring rig

• Semi trucks

• Cranes

• Hydromulcher

The new runway required the construction of the new $41 million FAA air traffic control tower to ensure that FAA controllers have an unobstructed view of the entire runway surface, a representative of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said. O’Hare’s central tower, adjacent to the terminal core, does not provide this required view.

“The South Air Traffic Control Tower stands 218-ft. above ground and provides an iconic addition to the landscape of O’Hare International Airport,” a representative of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said. “While this facility provides all the functional requirements needed, it was also designed to incorporate sophisticated sustainable initiatives, including the reliance of a geothermal field to support the building’s HVAC.”

The new tower is 218-ft. tall (66.4 m) with a 10,000 sq. ft. (929 sq m) base building. It was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and includes a 10,000 sq.-ft. vegetated green roof, a geothermal energy system and many other sustainable features. The commissioning of Runway 10R-28L and the SATCT marks the completion of all south airfield construction on the OMP.

No state or local taxpayer dollars were used to fund these projects, a representative of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said.

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