Calgary Airport Authority’s senior vice-president of planning and engineering Bob Schmitt says the new runway and terminal project is on schedule and on budget.
Photograph by: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald
Construction on the new 4.2 km long runway is on time and will be ready to land the big birds in 2014.
Airport officials provided a media tour of its biggest projects Friday — the new north-south runway and the new international terminal — estimated to cost $2 billion.
As CBC’s Scott Dippel reports, the construction is going to be part of life at the airport for years to come. Giant dump trucks, earth movers and tall construction cranes seem to be everywhere east of the airport terminal these days.
Construction on the new runway, which will be more than four kilometres long and over a metre thick, is well underway.
As project manager Duncan Fitzpatrick stood on a stretch of the new flat-top, which will eventually be covered with a lot more concrete, he noted everything is measured precisely, with only millimetres of variance.
“The largest planes in the world are potentially going to be landing here so the quality control requirements are very, very stringent, right from the placement of the dirt onto the gravel and through to the different layers of concrete,” he said.
He says a few layers of a one-kilometre section of the runway have already been poured, but no more concrete can be put down over the winter months. Fitzpatrick says the new runway is quite simply a massive project.
“We've moved four and a half million cubic metres of dirt this year alone,” he said. “We've got seven and a half million to move and we're placing nearly 900 tonnes of top layer concrete, so that's the magnitude of what we're doing.”
As massive as the runway seems, nearby the foundation of a new $1.4 billion international terminal is starting to take shape.
It will more than double the size of the existing terminal and feature an energy-saving design, including a geothermal heating system, rainwater recovery and special windows.
Airline analyst Rick Erickson predicts Calgary airport’s new look will help attract direct flights from places like China when these projects are complete.
“Nobody is matching what Calgary has done right now,” said Erickson. “If I was Vancouver, I might be looking over my shoulder at where Calgary's gonna go.”
But it's all still a few years away as the estimated opening for the runway will be in 2014 and the new international terminal will open in late 2015.
CALGARY - Just east of the airport, rows and rows of rebar emerge from a half-kilometre of snow-covered ground, as a small section of the massive new runway waits for spring and its next precisely calibrated layer of concrete to arrive.
But the huge site where a 4.2-kilometre long runway will be operating by 2014 is not hibernating over the winter.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, about 200 workers will continue to move another three million cubic metres of dirt to make sure the area is ready when the weather co-operates.
About 4.5 million cubic metres have already been moved, leveling the playing field where for the runway will be laid.
“It’s the magnitude of what we’re actually doing” that differentiates this project from others, Duncan Fitzpatrick, senior project manager of PCL-Parsons-Dufferin said Friday during a tour of the site.
The runway is part of the $2-billion Calgary Airport Authority infrastructure project which began construction earlier this year.
A new terminal for U.S. and international flights will double the airport’s current size, while the longer parallel runway will increase the number of destinations that can be reached, boosting Calgary’s position as a key global hub.
“Calgary is not going to be in any way short on capacity,” Calgary-based aviation consultant Rick Erickson said. “I don’t mean to sound like a homer, but it’s very impressive.
“It positions Calgary and Alberta and Western Canada as a hub. If I were Vancouver (airport) I’d be a little concerned about Calgary’s ambition for the future.”
Calgary’s airport is one of the busiest in the country, moving almost 200,000 flights and 12.5 million passengers through last year. Only Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are busier.
With its traffic increasing about four per cent a year, the existing facilities have reached capacity, with a flight taking off or landing every minute during the airport’s rush hours.
As well, the growth in the number of flights to the U.S. and beyond North America has led customs to impose a two-hour window on when passengers can pass through.
This expansion should give the aiprort enough capacity for more than 30 years.
While Calgarians can’t tour the busy construction sites and won’t see the finished projects for a few years — the runway will be in operation in the spring of 2014, while the terminal will open in the fall of 2015 — the airport is providing a sneak peak in its arrivals area.
The display includes models of the new runway and terminal, video of some of the construction, the same granite floor that will be used in the new building and it showcases the new baggage system that will be used in non-public areas, which has tubs instead of a belt and individual motors that require less energy.
The new 183,500 square-metre, five-level terminal building is being touted for its environmentally-friendly features, which include using co-generation to provide its electricity and the recycling of rainwater.
As well, it will be heated geo-thermally, says Marvin Messner, the project’s director for EllisDon. His crews will drill 624 holes into the site, 130 metres deep, to use the Earth’s heat to warm passengers flying to Paris and Hawaii.
Also on display in the airport’s project overview will be a to-scale cross-section of the new runway.
Building the stretch of concrete where the world’s biggest planes can land — a length equal to the distance between downtown and Chinook mall and 60 metres wide — requires moving 7.5 million cubic metres of dirt, and using 500 cubic metres of gravel and 260,000 cubic metres of concrete.
Fitzpatrick said first the earth is compacted as much as possible, before — working in 10 metre widths — 0.5 metres of gravel is placed a layer at a time and compacted. Then a cement stabilized base is added, followed by 17 inches of concrete surface paving. In total, from gravel to top layer, the runway is 1.135 metres thick.
A half-kilometre has been completed up to the first concrete layer so far, the rest will begin in spring.
A second concrete plant will be added on site then, one to produce the intermediate layer and the other the top layer.
More than 40 kilometres of pipe will be incorporated inside the runway to help drain it.
Bob Schmitt, the airport’s senior vice-president of planning and engineering, said the entire project is on schedule and on budget, with 85 per cent of the contracts already signed.
Last year, airport improvement fees levied on passengers departing from Calgary were increased by $3 to $25 to help pay for the project, which is entirely paid for by the Calgary Airport Authority.
Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com