Airport runway closing July 29

Hangar demolition first step in series of projects over next 4 years


The first of several airport construction projects costing $250 million and four years to complete should begin in the next two weeks with the demolition of Hangar 1.

The hangar on Airport Road, closest to the Post Road intersection, needs to come down to extend the runway safety area for Runway 16-34, Green’s shortest.

“Everything is going well so far,” reports Kelly Fredericks, Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) president and CEO. He said bids on various projects are coming in at or below estimates and projects are on schedule.

From the standpoint of operations, the most noticeable impact will come July 29 when Runway 16-34 is closed. It will stay closed until the Thanksgiving Day influx of flights and then close again for completion, Fredericks said.

The work will bring the runway into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety standards. The FAA requires a minimum 1,000-foot safety area at both ends of the runway as a roll-off for aborting a takeoff or inability to stop on landing. Because neither end of the runway has enough space, due to Post Road and Buckeye Brook, RIAC will use a form of crumbling cement tiles called EMAS [Engineered Material Arresting System] to meet the requirement.

The west end of the runway will be done first. Simultaneous work will begin relocating the Winslow Park playing fields to a portion of the Lake Shore Drive neighborhood where RIAC bought homes within the airport’s high noise contour and for construction of a system to capture deicing runoff. RIAC intends to have the fields playable by the time the existing park is no longer usable because of work to extend the airport’s longest runway to 8,700 feet.

The runway extension is the last of the major projects in the current round. It will require “looping” Main Avenue around the runway’s extension of about 1,500 feet to the south. As that loop would be built independent of the existing road, Fredericks does not see it having a major impact on the flow of east-west traffic.

“It’s a little bit of a jig saw puzzle,” Fredericks said of the multiple projects and the scheduling of work to minimize the impact. He said the plan is to leave Runway 5-23 open during the construction of its extension. This may require the use of “displaced thresholds,” requiring aircraft to use less of the runway, he said.

Financing is also a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Funding sources include the use of PFCs [passenger facility charges], FAA matching funds, bonds and reserves. Applying for the funds and their accounting will demand detailed attention.

“It will require very tight schedules that need to be managed like this through the very end,” said Fredericks.

Fredericks said construction of the playing fields would largely be done next year with the work on the Main Avenue loop coming the following year. The runway extension work will be in 2016 and 2017.

Thus far, the deicing collection system has been the budget buster. When designed, the system that includes a series of collection drains linked to a treatment plant was projected to cost $21 million. After the lowest bid came in at $28 million, RIAC split the work into two phases: the vertical phase for the plant and the horizontal of the collection drains. Combined, those bids have come in at $24.9 million, a savings of more than $3 million from the first bid, but still in excess of initial projections.

But, by and large, bids on other projects are coming in at less than projected. RIAC had budgeted $2.07 million to demolish the hangar. Cardi Construction won the job with a bid of $878,878. Safety area improvements and NAVAIDS to the 16 end of Runway 16-34 [the end near Post Road] were projected to cost $3 million. The contract is for $2.6 million.

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