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Work extends runway, expands flight options

Acme Concrete Paving Inc. machinery works on the 2,000-foot  runway extension at Spokane International Airport. (Dan Pelle)
Acme Concrete Paving Inc. machinery works on the 2,000-foot runway extension at Spokane International Airport. (Dan Pelle)

Construction crews are back at work at Spokane International Airport this month on a multi-year program to upgrade runways, aprons and taxiways.

The largest project is a 2,000-foot extension of the main runway, which will allow airlines to operate fully loaded aircraft during hot summer days.

Carriers have had to keep their aircraft weights down to achieve takeoff in hot weather, when air is less dense. Longer runways give aircraft greater time to build enough speed to overcome lower air density.

The extension will end the current restrictions and potentially allow airlines to stage longer flights with full fuel tanks, said Todd Woodard, airport spokesman.

“Essentially, it’s helping the airlines,” he said.

The project is also creating dozens of jobs in the Spokane economy. Part of the funding for the $30 million extension work comes from the federal economic stimulus bill.

Acme Concrete Paving Inc. of Spokane is the general contractor. Colvico Inc. of Spokane is doing the electrical work.

Earlier this month, the main runway was shut down to shorten its length to create a safe zone for workers in preparation for construction. Landing markers had to be moved.

That resulted in cancellation of several Southwest Airlines flights that did not have the capability of landing in lower visibility on the alternate runway.

The main runway has since been put back in service, resolving that potential problem.

In addition to the runway extension, workers are moving into the second year of a $15.5 million program to rebuild and expand aprons adjacent to the terminals.

This year’s work will be around the B concourse and the southwest portion of the A concourse.

During the phased work, some airlines, including United and Delta, will have to move from their regular gates.

The old aprons date back to airport construction completed in 1965.

The new apron concrete is being poured in 20-foot squares 17 inches deep.

Concrete from demolition is being stockpiled for next year’s project to build up the elevation of one end of the main runway.

Currently, the northeast end (known as Runway 03/21 for its compass heading of 030/210 degrees) has about a 5-foot elevation drop compared with the middle section of the runway. The Federal Aviation Administration wants the airport to correct the elevation, a project estimated to cost about $30 million in 2011.

Yet another project in 2013 involves resurfacing the alternate runway and taxiway at a cost of $9 million.

Airport officials said that by the time they are finished in 2013, the airport will have seen more than $110 million of investment, including improvements to roads, driveways, parking and buildings.

Some of the money comes from passenger facilities charges on tickets.

The construction will have created 4,400 jobs and will have had an economic impact to the region of $280 million, officials said.

Grant challenged

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last week seeks to block a $35 million economic stimulus grant announced recently for the North Spokane Corridor project.

The lawsuit comes from a citizen group with a website that lists as its address as the South Hill residence of John Covert, a state hydrogeologist and vocal freeway opponent.

Washington Department of Transportation spokesman Al Gilson said the spending is targeted for paving southbound lanes between Freya Street and Farwell Road and is currently out to bid. The state is proceeding as planned regardless of the filing, he said.

Watch for workers

Gilson reports that this is National Work Zone Awareness Week to call attention to the risks road workers face on construction jobs. The DOT has a tribute planned for Thursday to honor workers killed in work zone accidents, including the death of a worker near Port Angeles last November. So for the workers, slow down.

I-90 lane closures

Work on the Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge at Regal Street will cause some lane closures on the freeway this week between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.