April 11, 2011 in City

Leveling of main runway pushes air traffic to backup

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location

A $25 million job to raise the northeast end of the main runway at Spokane International Airport begins today and will result in flights operating off the airport’s second runway this week.

It is one of two major projects at the airport. The other involves reconfiguration of the entrance to the main parking garage adjacent to the terminals and new routing through the terminal area.

Residents of the South Side may notice more aircraft overhead since the alternate runway is aligned roughly with 40th Avenue, airport officials said.

The project under contract to Acme Concrete Paving Inc., of Spokane, will employ about 125 workers.

Although little-noticed by the traveling public, the northeast end of the main runway is more than 5 feet lower than the rest of the runway.

Jet cockpits are high enough off the ground so that pilots can see the entire runway without trouble.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration views the line-of-sight issue as a safety problem and is requiring the dip at the northeast end to be corrected, said Todd Woodard, spokesman for the airport.

The airport has been stockpiling concrete debris from its resurfacing work the past two years and will use that in building the raised runway.

Jet traffic will return next week to the main runway, which will operate at a shortened length through the construction period. Work is scheduled to finish Oct. 20.

The project is being funded with a combination of federal ticket taxes and general airport revenues derived from concessions, leases and parking.

It is ranked the third highest on a list of projects in the Northwest Mountain Regional Office of the FAA, qualifying the airport for $16 million in FAA discretionary funds.

Also beginning today is the first phase of a series of projects to improve parking areas and driveway access at the airport.

The initial project involves demolition of the parking garage entry canopy, which will require temporary access off Airport Drive about 300 feet south of Macfarlane Road. An attendant will be posted to issue time tickets.

Also, the outside parking area will have a detour access route.

Two cranes will be used for the demolition. Construction should be finished by Friday.

“Travelers and airport visitors should anticipate improvements in the clarity of directions surrounding the various parking areas over the next several phases of Spokane International Airport construction projects,” Woodard said in a press release.

Rail improvement funds

The state of Florida’s refusal to accept $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail line may end up benefiting the state of Washington.

The Washington State Department of Transportation last week announced its eagerness to use $120 million of the Florida money to continue improvements on the Amtrak Cascades service between Portland and Vancouver, B.C.

The money was part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. Rail money was also returned by Ohio and Wisconsin, which, along with Florida, have conservative Republican governors.

WSDOT wants to use the money for environmental and engineering work to stabilize hillsides, add capacity to reduce conflicts with freight and to replace an aging trestle.

Washington has already received $590 million in federal rail money to add two daily round trips between Portland and Seattle for a total of six. Bypass tracks are being built to allow greater train frequency. Grade separations and advanced-warning systems are also being built.

Nearly 600,000 boardings were reported on the line between Seattle and Portland last year, an increase of 10 percent over 2009.

The Florida money was to go for a line between Tampa and Orlando to help relieve highway congestion there.

Solo drivers misuse lanes

A study commissioned by PEMCO Insurance Co. shows that a quarter of Washington drivers admit to cheating when it comes to using high-occupancy vehicle lanes in Western Washington.

“We’re surprised to learn so many drivers admit to using carpool lanes when they’re not supposed to,” said PEMCO spokesman John Osterberg in a news release.

Drivers may be confused. Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the study did not know that HOV lanes on Interstate 5 are off limits to solo drivers.

A violation nets a $124 ticket.

Freya water main work

Freya Street at 11th Avenue in east Spokane will be closed today through Friday so that a contractor can lay a new 36-inch water main across the street. Thor Street underwent a similar closure last year.

Hartson Avenue from Havana to Myrtle streets remains closed because of the work.

MLK Way construction

Street closures in east Spokane will continue until May 16 during initial stages of construction of a new Martin Luther King Jr. Way from Division and Riverside eastward to Sherman Avenue.

Spokane Falls Boulevard from Hamilton to Division streets is closed along with Main Avenue at Pine Street.

Warehouses east of Division between Riverside and Sprague avenues have been demolished as part of the project.

U.S. 195 input sought

The WSDOT is holding a series of community meetings along U.S. Highway 195 to hear from citizens on how the route can be made safer.

The sessions begin Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Safeway in Pullman; 8 to 10 a.m. Wednesday at Rosalia Coffee & More; 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Washington State University’s Cougar Union Building; and 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Rosauers in Colfax.

Drivers can access an online survey at www.survey monkey.com/s/US195.


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