OAKLAND, Dec. 28, 2001
-- Oakland International Airport repaved its 10,000-foot main runway in 126 hours this year -- believed to be the fastest runway repaving in history. The hardest part? All the planning required before the repaving actually started, airport officials say as they finish analyzing the project.
The runway was closed completely for the $21.5 million project, which included placing approximately 105,000 tons of asphalt and installing 664 runway lights. The airport remained open during the closure, with aircraft taking off from a temporary runway adjacent to the main runway, and landing on runways at the airport’s North Field, typically used by corporate jets and general aviation aircraft.
"We spent more than a year planning the project so as to minimize the inconvenience to our passengers, our airlines and our neighbors, and it paid off," said Steve Grossman, director of aviation for the Port of Oakland. "We anticipated that it would take at least 10 days, and our contractor was able to finish in less than six. It shows what can be accomplished when everyone understands the importance of a project and works together."
The plan submitted by the contractor, Oakland’s Gallagher & Burk, Inc., called for crews to work around the clock.
As an added incentive, the contract included a bonus of $125,000 for every 12-hour period that the work was completed ahead of schedule; and a penalty of $125,000 for every 12-hour period if the schedule slipped. There was a maximum of a $1 million bonus, but no maximum penalty.
Less than 30 minutes after the runway was closed on Aug. 10, a convoy of trucks began bringing the first shift of approximately 250 workers onto the field. Most of the 500 workers were assigned to 12-hour shifts.
The airport also assigned two operations supervisors to work 12-hour shifts for up to 10 days straight, so that someone would always be available. Briefings for the airport staff were held daily, including weekends, at 8:30 a.m.; daily briefings for airlines and other airport tenants were at noon. Airport and project management company officials met with the contractor every 12 hours to check work completed so far.
Oakland International Airport had some unusual challenges in planning the project, both in terms of construction scheduling and relationships with the community.
"At one time, many airports would have let the needs of the contractors take precedence in creating the schedule," Grossman said. "We’ve learned that we need to balance the needs of all the stakeholders, and we gave equal importance to the needs of our passengers and our neighbors."
Although Oakland’s North Field has two runways certified for air carriers, they traditionally use the 10,000-foot Runway 11/29 at the airport’s South Field, adjacent to the passenger terminals. Using the North Field for take-offs was troublesome, as some homes are as close as 1,500 feet to the runway. In addition, only a single taxiway links the two fields, meaning that ground congestion would have resulted if the North Field runways had been used for both take-offs and landings.
Also, the North Field’s runway 9R/27L is 6,250 feet in length which is not sufficient for the larger air cargo aircraft. Nor was it practical to use the temporary runway at South Field for both landings and takeoffs. Because there was no parallel taxiway, incoming planes would have had to backtaxi to reach the terminal, also creating ground congestion.
The airport, FedEx’s regional hub, also has significant cargo traffic at night, making overnight closures of the runway impractical.
Long before the August work could start, there were four separate projects, including creating the temporary runway, to be completed on schedule. Otherwise the date could have slipped into fall, with added delays from fog and rain, said Frank Lobedan, the Port of Oakland’s engineering project manager.
Not only was the preliminary work finished on schedule, but there were no major glitches during the repaving. "Our biggest concern was that we were moving so quickly that the materials might not meet specifications, and we would have to tear out part of the overlay and redo it," Lobedan said. "Fortunately, the quality control was just as on target as the rest of the project."
Another concern was flight delays, as it took aircraft an extra five to seven minutes to taxi the one mile from the North Field runway used by incoming planes. Thanks to careful planning and faster turnaround times by the airlines, no flight delays were reported.
Another potential problem was traffic jams on roads leading to the airport because of the 50 to 80 additional construction trucks every hour. As a precaution, the airport ran radio commercials and stressed in press coverage to allow an additional 45 minutes to reach the airport. In addition, the Port coordinated the work with CALTRANS, which rescheduled both ramp closures and maintenance work on nearby Interstate 880.
Traffic on the roads was monitored 24 hours a day from a command center, created in a portion of an eighth-floor cocktail lounge with views of the approach roads and the airfield, and alternate truck routes were established in case roads became too crowded. However, the only significant congestion was during normal peak traffic times on Friday and Sunday evenings. Oakland Police officers were hired to monitor the intersections for congestion and "shepherd" the trucks carrying the asphalt concrete across oncoming traffic.
Virtually every detail was planned, down to having two tow trucks, one of which was capable of moving a construction truck, on standby. The tow trucks were never needed. A portable asphalt plant was erected on the airport and the contractor dedicated two nearby plants to the project. A fourth nearby plant, kept on standby, went into operation on two occasions when equipment malfunctioned at one of the three other plants.
Meeting with stakeholders began more than a year in advance. The airlines preferred a series of weekend closures, but neighboring residents overwhelmingly preferred complete closure and completion of the work as quickly as possible.
Making the project more palatable to neighbors was another key reason for the temporary runway, which meant departing commercial aircraft could fly over San Francisco Bay instead of over homes during construction.
Consideration for neighbors also was a reason for the August date, as schools in the flight path for incoming traffic would not be in session. Work started on a Friday, as the airport has the fewest cargo flights over the weekend.
Incoming aircraft used a flight pattern over part of the nearby City of San Leandro, where residents received offers of discount airline tickets and free tickets to their choice of 10 area attractions to thank them for their cooperation. Approximately 600 discount airline tickets were issued, and about 8,500 tickets to area attractions were distributed.
Homebound San Leandro residents were offered temporary relocation to health care facilities if the flight pattern changes were likely to impact their health. Although a number of residents inquired about this, none signed up for the program.
Four different hotlines were staffed 24 hours a day: the airport regular noise hotline, a special hotline for questions about the repaving, a hotline for ticket giveaway questions and a hotline for the health care programs. A health care coordinator was on call 24 hours a day during the work.
The airport received about 100 noise complaints during construction — and about a dozen compliments from nearby residents for taking the extra steps to minimize the inconvenience. The airlines also presented a plaque to the airport management, thanking them for their work to make the project go so quickly and so smoothly.
"Our contractors did an outstanding job in completing the work quickly," Grossman added. "We want to thank all of them, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines and our neighbors for working with us on a plan that met the needs of everyone."
The construction manager was Paragon Project Consultants, Inc., a Dallas firm with offices in Oakland.
The repaving of the main air carrier runway was necessary to maintain safe operating conditions. The repaved runway is designed to last for 15 years and consists of an asphalt concrete overlay of approximately six inches and a grooved surface to provide additional friction. The last partial overlay was in 1989.
In 2000 Oakland International Airport served more than 10.6 million passengers and handled approximately 700,000 metric tons of air cargo. Oakland International has more than 195 daily passenger flights on 12 domestic and international carriers. The airport is a revenue division of the Port of Oakland, an independent department of the City of Oakland.