June 30--Commercial airline traffic is expected to resume normal operations at 11 a.m. Thursday on the 10,000-foot main north-south runway at Tulsa International Airport after 60 days of construction on the runway's south 1,300 feet, airport executives said Wednesday.
"We're in the middle of a three-day process to remove the old (runway) markings and put down new ones," Jeff Hough, deputy airports director of engineering and facilities, said Wednesday. "At 11 a.m. Monday, we closed all 10,000 feet of the main runway, and we used the (7,372-foot, east-west) crosswind runway Monday through Wednesday."
Along with the pavement markings, workers are installing ground-based navigation equipment and runway lights, Hough said, although some of the instrument landing system equipment won't be turned on until the Federal Aviation Administration certifies it as properly aligned.
General contractor for the runway project is Sherwood Construction Co. Inc. of Tulsa.
The first, 1,300-foot, $7.7 million phase of construction is part of a five-year, $68 million reconstruction of the main runway, which hasn't been rebuilt in nearly 30 years, Hough said.
In the early stages of the project, Sherwood workers broke up the 18-inch-thick old concrete down to the rock base and hauled it away. Edge drains were installed to carry water away from the pavement. Finally, the new concrete was poured.
The main runway project is a capital improvement priority because it handles the lion's share of the 30,000 annual commercial aircraft operations -- a landing or takeoff -- at Tulsa International.
Hough and Airports Director Jeff Mulder met with FAA officials earlier this year to discuss the five-year runway project and federal grant funding.
"Because of the environment at the federal government level, it's going to be tough to fund it over five years," Mulder said in March. "We talked about how to approach this and how to keep the project moving. The things we talked about were doing it in phases; doing part of the runway that needs it most and doing the rest in phases; and, (the FAA) issuing a letter of intent -- the airport borrows money to fund the project -- and the FAA pledges grant funds to pay it off."
FAA officials said it would be difficult to issue $12 million to $15 million a year in grants to reconstruct the main runway in five years, Mulder said.
"Whether you borrow money and incur interest expenses or you wait for (FAA) funding and it drags out over seven or eight years, it complicates things and ends up costing more money," Mulder said.
Hough said the second phase of the runway project will focus on reconstruction of the north 800 to 1,000 feet of the main runway.
"It will depend on the bids we get," Hough said. "We're planning to take bids in August, award a contract at the September board meeting and begin construction in late February or early March."
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451
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