What Can You Do in 58 Hours?

Wed May 25, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

Construction crews pulled off a job that could have taken two months to complete in only 58 hours.

Just after 6 a.m. May 12, the longest runway at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport reopened with 800 tons (725 t) of new or repaired concrete.

Danny Eudy, public contracts manager at Rea Contracting in Charlotte, said workers began preparing the site the week before the runway was to be shutdown at 8 p.m. May 9. Working between midnight and 6 a.m., crews sawed around areas of the 15-in. (38 cm) concrete runway that were to be removed while still leaving it in a usable condition.

“We couldn’t leave it like that in the long term,” he said.

The planning, however, started well before then.

Eudy said his company met with airport engineers to set a specific schedule for the 58 hours during which every task was meticulously set.

They ensured the proper equipment was available for the $710,000 job, which included two Case 300 track hoes with hammer attachments, two Gradalls, a Volvo rubber tire excavator, a Volvo rubber tire wheel loader, concrete finishing machines and two gang drills to set the new steel.

They ensured Concrete Supply of Charlotte would be able to supply the right amount of material.

And they lined up the necessary subcontractors to perform electrical work, joint work and epoxy injection.

Once the planning was complete, “we knew exactly what we were going out there to do,” Eudy said.

With the clock ticking right off the bat, crews began breaking out the concrete they had pre-cut. By the next morning, they started to place some of the new concrete.

Eudy said the concrete was entirely replaced in the larger areas by 4 p.m. May 11, just 44 hours after the job began.

The only break in the action came May 10, when thunderstorms rolled through Charlotte, stopping work for a few hours.

Just hours before the 6 a.m. deadline fell, crews began cleaning and other incidental work.

Eudy said there was never a rushed feeling at the job site, even toward the end of the task.

At the peak of the work, approximately 30 workers were at the site. Only the managers from Rea were at the site the entire time, but workers clocked in some long shifts.

Eudy’s crew members were prepared for a busy couple of days. “These guys were aware of the task and they knew what it was all about.”

He said they take pride at overcoming what seemed to be a daunting job.

“The biggest challenge was to have the right people and the right number of people,” Eudy said.

U.S. Airways rescheduled 150 flights, which occurred three days prior to the start of the project.

During the closure, there were 15 to 30 minute delays in arrivals and departures.

The 10,000 ft. (3,048 m) runway, known as 18R/36L, opened in 1979. Airport Public Affairs Manager Haley Gentry said the life of a concrete runway is usually 20 to 25 years, so it was time for this work to occur. Airport officials worked with the Federal Aviation Association to pinpoint the best time for the runway closure.

The concrete removed from the runway will be crushed and kept on-site for future projects.

One of the airport’s other runways is asphalt, while the third is a combination of concrete and asphalt. Gentry said concrete tends to have a longer life cycle than asphalt when used for runway construction.

The successful completion of this project doesn’t mean the end of construction at Charlotte-Douglas.

Engineers are presently designing a fourth runway, for which crews should begin clearing land in the coming months. CEG