By Lee Allen
Taxiway “B,” built in 2001, is getting a facelift to remedy significant cracking and minor subgrade failures and its 10 connector taxiways that lead directly to the runway are being totally reconstructed. When the substrate has been brought back to health, the entire taxiway will receive a new 4-inch asphalt overlay.
Rather than close the facility completely, which would halt arrivals and departures for up to 45 days at an estimated loss in the $2 million range, it will be done in segments to minimize disruption.
Beginning at 9 p.m. Monday, July 6, and continuing in phases starting at the north end, the total rehabilitation is expected to take slightly more than 250 days to complete. The scope of work outlines about 115 nightly closures (roughly 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., although the start time each night is dependent on completion of any daytime construction segments that precede work in the dark hours). Scheduled closures in the front-end of the five-phase project will take place over 10-day periods each in early July, late August and early September, with the last few no-go nights of these three phases scheduled to wrap up just before Thanksgiving, the week of Nov. 19 through Nov. 23.
Summer is the slowest time of the year at the airport, so the project was started in the summer to stay on a schedule planned for minimal disruption.
“The reason we chopped the project into phases is so there would always be access to the runway, but it’s important that airport users not schedule overnight flights based on this schedule,” according to Airport Operations Manager Chris Read.
“In essence, it will be business as usual although pilots may have to use temporary taxiway connectors and perhaps taxi a bit further to get to the runway.”
The back end of the project, phases four and five covering the southernmost end, will take place in December and into the first quarter of the following year.
“We’ll see how weather and other mitigating factors impact the planned schedule and refine our phase four/five timing after the first three phases are completed,” Read said.
“We won’t really be stopping at any point along the continuum, but we might have to make adjustments. We’re hoping everything goes as designed with no issues and no major surprises. Everything seems to be on course with what we’ve designed and we don’t expect any major changes. If we stay on schedule—as we anticipate we will be able to—the overall completion date for all five phases is March 20, 2016.”
The airport was built as a basic flight training facility in the early 1940s. The first business jets began to land in the fall of 1967 with more than 152,500 takeoffs and landings taking place last year, making Scottsdale one of the busiest corporate jet facilities in the country. The 2014 City of Scottsdale Economic Benefit Study reported that activity at the Airport and the Airpark generated $536 million into the local economy with spin-off benefits throughout the entire Airpark calculated at $8 billion per year.
It takes money to make money, however, and the price tag for repairs and total runway reconstruction of the 8,249-foot-long runway (more than 1.5 miles or about the length of 23 football fields) will run just under $20 million—$6 million to strengthen the runway, $9 million for Alpha taxiway and its connectors, and $5 million for taxiway Bravo and its connectors. Tempe-based J. Banicki Construction Inc. – winner of an Arizona Department of Transportation Transportation Excellence Award for its work at Flagstaff airport taxiways – will perform the “B” taxiway work with an approved bid of slightly more than $5.3 million. This particular taxiway was originally constructed in the 1970s and upgraded in 2001.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) will fund 95 percent of the cost of work associated with the contract while the Airport Project Center will pick up the remaining estimated $240,000. The Aviation Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Center will be used to track funding for the project. Maintenance costs are not expected to increase as a result of the rehab.
The combined improvements are not to increase overall airport traffic, but will allow jets to extend their flight range by taking off with more fuel on board, i.e., increased fuel sales which will translate to increased sales tax revenues.
The airport, covering 280-plus acres just a few miles north of downtown Scottsdale, was acquired by the City in 1966. In the fall of 2009, the Scottsdale City Council gave its seal of approval to a proposal to increase weight restrictions there from 75,000 to 100,000 pounds. Therefore, while the number of planes landing/leaving the airport is expected to stay the same or increase just slightly, allowing planes to depart fully fueled will extend their reach to almost anywhere in the world.
“The project isn’t going to bring us any larger aircraft that we already accept, it just means they can go on longer hauls,” said airport spokeswoman Sarah Ferrara.
Airport officials do concede that by allowing planes to take off with more fuel (without having to obtain prior approval), the ability to travel longer distances might open up the airport to consideration by national and international air travelers.
In addition to repairing cracks, reconstructing connectors and overlaying new pavement, the project also includes new signage and replacement lighting. All existing halogen taxiway light fixtures will be replaced with LED lighting to reduce the cost of electricity and conform to new FAA airport design standards. Currently there are an approximate 100 white lights along the runway with 650 to 700 blue lights along the Alpha and Bravo taxiways.
“Pilots will basically see a brand new taxiway when we’re done,” said Read.