Expansion at Akron-Canton Should be Done in 2010

Crews have moved an estimated 1.9 million cubic yards of dirt for the $55 million to $60 million extension.

Nov. 26--Try maneuvering your wheelbarrow around this idea -- Fill the Rubber Bowl with dirt not once, but 21 times.

Extending the main runway at Akron-Canton Airport is a very big project, and that's how much dirt will be moved during the four years that it takes.

Both ends of the runway -- one at Interstate 77 north of the airport exit and the other at state Route 241 in Jackson Township -- have been excavated for the extension and safety improvements.

Since work began last year, crews from from the Beaver Construction Co. of Canton have moved an estimated 1.9 million cubic yards of dirt for the $55 million to $60 million extension at the south end, said Richard B. McQueen, the assistant airport director.

Another 2.2 million cubic yards of dirt remains to be excavated, moved and compacted in order to extend the northeast-southwest runway by 600 feet to 8,200 feet, he said.

With the addition to Runway 5/23, now 7,600 feet long, fully fueled Boeing 737-800 jets will be able to fly anywhere in the country nonstop, airport spokeswoman Kristie Van Auken said.

Planes now fly nonstop no farther than Las Vegas and Denver, she said.

The runway expansion will provide "20 years of capacity" for the the airport, which straddles the Summit-Stark county line, Van Auken said.

Plans call for moving enough dirt to raise the elevation at the southwest end by 65 feet to match the existing runway; it has been raised 10 to 15 feet so far, McQueen said.

"It's a big, big project . . . but it's a big deal for the airport," he said. "It will position us for the future."

The work also will expand the safety zones at both ends by sliding the runway to the southwest, moving it away from the interstate.

To make that move, the southwest end will be extended 1,300 feet -- nearly a quarter mile -- in Jackson Township and 700 feet of runway at the northeast end in Green will be eliminated, he said.

That will provide the airport with 1,000-foot safety zones or grassy areas at both ends of the 150-foot-wide runway to meet federal standards, he said.

The work included the removal of a small pond and a few trees along I-77 beyond Runway 5/23's northeast edge, he said.

Ponds attract waterfowl and birds and that's a bad mixture for airports, he said.

Moving the dirt alone will cost about $35 million, McQueen said.

The earth-moving work got under way late last year and is wrapping up for the winter after a productive spring, summer and fall, he said.

The result is a barren, dirt-covered moonscape at the southern end.

The dirt came largely from the airport-proper's 2,900 acres and from other land owned by the airport along Waywood Road Northwest, he said.

That greatly reduced the price that the airport would have had to pay if it had to purchase the dirt and haul it long distances, he said.

The preliminary work required moving a sanitary sewer line and natural gas lines plus plugging gas wells, he said.

The airport is expecting the excavation work to continue in 2008 and perhaps the runway extension to be paved in 2009, he said.

The contractor is not only excavating and hauling the dirt, it is also compacting it, he said. The dirt is expected to be fully settled within 90 days after the final compacting, he said.

The new runway will be 3 feet thick -- The asphalt will be 10 inches thick atop more than 2 feet of rocky base, he said.

The 700 feet at the runway's northeast end is slated to be removed in 2010, he said.

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