The city approved the contracts for more than a mile’s worth of new runway to be rebuilt at the Bismarck Airport next spring.
Contractors will wrap up the first phase of the airport’s runway overhaul in mid-October and be ready to move on to phase two next season, said Airport Director Greg Haug.
“It will be nice,” Tim Thorsen, the airport's assistant director, said. “The community will be well served.”
It starts with the milling of old asphalt. Then, about 59 inches down, geogrid mesh is laid. On top of that is 12 inches of asphalt milling, then 17 inches of a sandy, rocky base, 8 inches of crushed, hard-packed sand and granite, 6 inches of cement base and then 16 inches of concrete. This will continue over a length of 5,500 feet, Haug said.
In order to keep up with demand, the city had no choice but to replace the aging runway, according to Haug, who said the multimillion dollar investment will provide “50 years of great runway.”
Project administrators banked on receiving $10 million in Federal Aviation Administration discretionary funds annually and $2 million in entitlement funding annually, Haug said. The city agreed to $10 million to $11 million and the airport had from $5 million to $6 million in reserves.
Since then, bid amounts for the now $49 million second phase have decreased to $4.2 million and federal funding has gone up to $6.3 million in extra discretionary funds.
“We’re about $10.5 million to the good on the overall project through the second phase,” Haug said. “We’re happy with where we’re sitting.”
Prepping for the remaining 1,500 feet of runway, engineering design will be completed over the winter and construction will go to bid next summer. The project is expected to cost from $14 million to $15 million, with construction slated to start the summer of 2018, Haug said.
As passenger numbers have continued to rise the past eight years, with more growth expected, the airport is updating its five-, 10- and 20-year master plan, with an eye on a potential terminal expansion.
The total project cost could come to about $65 million. Should more funding be needed, Haug said the airport may consider revenue bounds.
"We’ll wait and see how it all shakes out in the next phase," he said.
To keep fliers on their way, planes will be shifted to the 6,600-foot crosswind runway next summer. Some dirt work for drainage, which took place over a 100-acre area, and grooving of the runway for traction and drainage are all that remain of this summer’s work.
To the benefit of pilots, the runway will reopen with a number of new features.
The smoothing of the grounds through dirt work enables further use of sensors to aid in landing. Previously, pilots had to land planes manually but the now flat earth gives the sensors a better surface for signals, allowing aircraft to stay on autopilot on their way in for a landing, Thorsen said.
The runway also comes with new temperature sensors for improved snow removal operations.