Located near downtown Colorado Springs, CO., the Colorado Springs Airport (COS) recently completed the rehabilitation of Runway 17R-35L. This runway rehabilitation replaced the 11,022-foot-long deteriorated surface resulting in enhanced safety for aircraft using the runway and reduced maintenance for the airport crews.
The runway was last rehabilitated in 2002 and was past its useful life, showing significant signs of degradation. Since its original construction in the 1960s, multiple rehabilitations had left the runway with an extremely varying pavement section consisting of various layers of paving fabric and overlays. An extensive pavement and geotechnical investigation led to the recommendation of a 5-inch mill/fill for the runway, utilizing 85,000 tons of asphalt for the rehabilitation.
A Phased Approach to Maintain Airport Operations
The project team implemented a phased approach to complete the work on schedule. This phasing was critical to maintain aircraft operations on the airfield and minimize the disruption to the greatest extent possible. The 150-calendar day phasing plan consisted of seven phases with multiple sub-phases and was prepared with the collaborative input of multiple users and stakeholders at the airport.
The phasing plan maintained two crossing points for aircraft during each phase throughout the duration of the project to maintain safe and effective ongoing operations. A temporarily relocated threshold was implemented on Runway 13-31 to minimize impacts while Runway 17R-35L remained closed for the duration of the rehabilitation.
Although the overall project duration was 150 calendar days, it’s important to note that Runway 17R-35L was closed for only 90 days.
Strong Client and Consultant Relationships Led to Early Completion
The key to meeting the many milestones on this project, both operationally and constructability, could be attributed to the strong team relationships and close coordination by the project team. This included COS staff, RS&H, Inc. (Design and Construction Oversight consultant), and Kiewit Infrastructure Co. (Prime Contractor) working together as a cohesive team.
Commitments were made early for open communication and to work through any issues as a team, which led to this $16.3M construction project being successfully completed five weeks earlier than projected.
The team spent significant time collaborating on the construction, communicating with tenants, and considering ways to minimize operational disruptions months before a paver showed up on site. This close coordination benefited all parties and led to a smoothly run project and return the runway to service.
Steve Howe, RS&H Lead Resident Project Representative reflected on the success of the project:
“Everyone on the team went above and beyond to resolve problems, to coordinate an activity, or make modifications on the fly. Those are the things that make a project successful and finish on time or in this case weeks early. Believe me when I tell you not all airports understand how important they are to a project and how impactful their actions or inactions are in getting to the finish line.”
Everything from New Pavement to LED Lights
In September 2021, the Runway 17R-35L Rehabilitation project was completed early. The construction included milling, paving, grooving, reflective paint, and all new LED lights and signs. Additional improvements included:
A seal coat on the shoulders/blast pads
Replacement of the electrical system with new LED runway and taxiway lights
New LED PAPI on Runway 35L
New LED REILs on Runway 17R
Relocation of the supplemental wind cones
Replacement of the in-pavement monitoring system
Replacement of the back-up generator
Upgrade to the Airport Lighting Control and Monitoring System
Airport beacon was relocated to an area that would provide significantly greater visibility, thereby enhancing safety on the airfield.
A large, complex rehabilitation project like this requires months of planning and then months of construction, all the while adjusting to operational changes or unanticipated field conditions.
Reflections and Asphalt Industry Accolades
Alex McKean, Project Director, reflected on the project indicating:
“It was fun to be a part of the team that delivered this successful project. Everyone involved had a ‘can do’ attitude which resulted in a superior project for the airport.”
Brett Miller, Assistant Aviation Director stated, “Thank you to everyone involved, this was the third runway overlay project that I have been involved with over the last 27 years, and by far this project ran the smoothest and produced a great surface that will last for the next 20 years.”
The project was awarded the 2021 Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association’s “Best in Colorado” Asphalt Pavement Award in the category of Airports based on the high quality of the finished project. Here is a video sharing why this project was selected for the award.
Arlando Gilbert, RS&H Project Manager, echoed Steve Howe’s comment about the Runway Team.
“Months before the project started, we made the decision to function as a team. We all had the same goal, we all had a stake, and we all had an important role to play. The commitment from every member of the team to work together is what made this project successful.”
As COS continues to create a unique experience for travelers, the rehabilitation of Runway 17R-35L helps create safe and efficient operations for years to come for the nearly 1 million passengers that traveled through the terminal in 2021.