Building the extension to Green Airport’s main runway this summer is going to take moving mountains.
To be more precise, it’s going to take 70,000 cubic yards of earth, much of which is stockpiled in giant mounds off Main Avenue not far from the new section of Main Avenue. All that earth plus additional fill is needed to create the embankment on which Runway 5, which is now at 7,100 feet, to be extended to 8,700 feet.
A lot of work to make the extension possible has been completed or is nearing completion.
The Main Avenue loop is part of that, but so also is the runway drainage system, approach lighting system, erection of blast deflection barrier and the paving of the runway safety area that starting April 24 will see the installation of EMAS, or engineered material arresting system, a form of crumbling concrete block that is designed to stop an aircraft that overshoots the end of the runway. The Winslow Park playing fields have been relocated and homes that would have been located within the high noise contour of the longer runway have been bought and demolished.
But surely the most unusual of materials needed to complete the runway extension were found on a tour of the project Friday morning accompanied by Gregory Fehrman, principal engineer for C&S Companies, Paul McDonough of RIAC and Bob Ferrara of Cardi Construction that has the $38 million runway contract. On a skid stacked neatly and sitting on the pavement were more than a dozen gravestones. These are granite markers bearing the names and the dates of those buried just off the side of what will become the runway extension. The markers will be flush with the ground so as not to cause any obstruction to aircraft.
Meanwhile, the original headstones and monuments have been relocated and positioned, as they once were over the graves in a fenced lot off Industrial Drive. The public will have access to the grave-less cemetery.
With the arrival of spring, equipment and crews can be seen within the airport fence.
“We’ve been going great guns,” says Fehrman, who describes the project as becoming even more intense in the weeks ahead.
In the grand scheme, the runway extension will be completed by Aug. 15 – almost three months ahead of Dec. 7, the target date for its “publication” by the Federal Aviation Administration. The extension may to be used prior to publication, which signifies that its instrument landing system is operational. Once the extension is completed this summer, Fehrman explained the FAA, which has carefully followed the construction process to ensure the work meets standards, would conduct flight tests to fine tune the systems. He expects this process to begin Aug. 30 and take until Oct. 2. The grooving and permanent marking of the runway would also happen in August and September.
As the work steps up, access to the airfield will be relocated from the neighborhood off Strawberry Field Road West to the belly cargo area at the terminal. As crews won’t be permitted to park on the field, vans will take them on-site.
Two shifts are working the job. On Monday through Thursday crews, start at 6 a.m. running until 5 p.m. and recommence at 9:30 p.m. going until 5:30 a.m. Friday crews are slated to work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Apart from some distant lights and moving equipment, area residents aren’t expected to see or hear much from the project. That could change in early June when vibrators are used to compact the runway extension. Compaction is essential to ensure there is no flexing to the runway as aircraft land, Fehrman said.
And while the project is ahead of schedule and on budget, there’s a sense of immediacy as deadlines loom.
To stay informed on the status of the project, RIAC is publishing an e-newsletter. To sign up go to www.pvdairport.com/corporate/community-relations.