Early Arrival: Fort Smith Airport Runway Rehab Project Feature
Synergism. Man that word is fun to say, but what is Synergism? Synergism is teamwork. Synergism is unity. Synergism is working together to create an outcome greater than what the sum of their separate effects would be. And the Fort Smith Regional Airport runway rehab project encapsulated synergism. The combined efforts of the Emery Sapp & Sons (ESS) Asphalt, DOT and Hutchens Construction (Hutchens) teams kept this project flying safely through the critical schedule, arriving at each destination early. For ESS and Hutchens, synergism equaled success.
It’s no secret that airport projects are challenging and demand a lot of resources to execute successfully on an unyielding schedule. The Fort Smith Regional Airport Runway 7/25 Rehabilitation was one such project. In fact, when the Fort Smith Airport Commission first released the project for bid, no contractor would take the risk due to the compressed schedule. When the owner released the project for bid again, extending the runway closure to 15 calendar days, our estimating team identified this as a perfect project for ESS.
But why was it so ideal? Because ESS had the resources to deliver on the owner’s demands where other contractors couldn’t. As a matter of fact, we were the only contractor willing to bid on the project. Pulling resources together from our ESS Asphalt, DOT and Hutchens Construction teams gave us the ability to create a critical schedule, and beat that schedule with innovative ideas before and during the construction process.
One such innovative idea was described by estimator Darren Woods. “During the bidding process we could see that implementing stringless milling would be an advantage by giving the existing surface a perfect grade for the new pavement to be placed on. The decision was made to outfit two of our cold milling machines with stringless equipment, and doing this has put our milling capabilities ahead of the game.”
The project itself consisted of the rehabilitation of runway 7/25 which was 8,500 feet long and 150 feet wide, and was bid to be constructed in 4 main phases with each phase having 2 to 4 sub-phases. To limit disruption to airport traffic, each phase had a very aggressive schedule. Combining crews from ESS Asphalt and Hutchens gave us the resources to run two cold milling machines side by side for asphalt removal, and run two asphalt pavers side by side for runway paving.
After the initial existing asphalt surface was milled off, it was discovered that a thin amount of the existing asphalt layer remained on the surface due to the old pavement being deeper than anticipated. It was agreed to mill a ½-inch deeper to remove this layer completely and install 3.5-inch depth asphalt. “It was challenging to install this depth of asphalt in a single lift and still maintain thickness and elevation tolerances,” commented Andy Baker, ESS Asphalt Assistant Vice President. “Our entire team did a great job working together and completed the project ahead of schedule and under budget. This project exemplifies the best-in-class culture of Emery Sapp & Sons.”
Even with those challenges, every paving phase of the project was completed early, including Phase 3, which involved a complete runway closure for 15 days with the final 4 days being a complete airport closure. This timeframe could not be moved, regardless of weather or pandemic-related delays. Just check out these stats:
Phase 1 – 30 Calendar Days Allowed – ESS used 10 days 😱
Phase 2 – 30 Calendar Days Allowed – ESS used 10 days 😱
Phase 3 – 15 Calendar Days Allowed – ESS used 14 days 😱
We were able to obliterate those deadlines by combining perfect scope execution by ESS and Hutchens crews along with careful coordination of 50-plus dump trucks hauling asphalt on and off the runway. Phases 1 and 2 were performed while the airport was still operating. This required awareness of the runway safety areas, attention to aircraft landing and taking off overhead, and clearing dust and debris that could be a hazard to aircraft.
Matt Cowell, ESS Director of Environmental Health & Safety, couldn’t be more proud of the evidence that safety was factored into every step of the planning and preparation process as well as on-site. “I was amazed at how well safety was planned into this project. We had about 35 trucks hauling asphalt in while two pavers were laying simultaneously. In order to keep the traffic flow operational, all dump trucks had to know what was going on. The communication to the truck drivers, employee-owners on the ground, and the operators was perfect. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see all hazards had been identified and a safe plan was put into place prior to beginning the work, and safety remained the number one priority through construction resulting in zero lost time injuries on the project.”
Phase 4 of the project is set to begin on October 3rd after a 30-day curing period of the newly paved runway. Crews will perform final pavement grooving, striping and signage during nightly runway closures through November 30th. If the previous 3 phases are any indication, we’ll be completing that ahead of schedule as well.
With the ESS and Hutchens teams working together and owning it as one, we were able to create a powerful force. A synergism resulting in a successful and safe project they can be proud of. And you know what? Safe. Successful. Proud. Those are some pretty fun words to say, too.
What’s that? You want to see some cool project stats? Done 😎
- 30,400 Tons of Asphalt placed (same as 12’ lane, 2” thick for 38 miles)
- 33,000 Tons of Reclaimed Asphalt Paving (RAP)
- 148,855 SY of Cold Milling produced 33,000 tons of millings (1,500 dump truck loads)
- 148,855 SY of Paving Fabric (enough to cover a football field 23 times)
- 37,160 Gallons of Tack Coat
- 2,180 LF Crack & Joint Sealing
- 5400 SY of Sodding (over 1 acre)
- 215 CY of Concrete Structures removed and replaced
- 85% of the project was self-performed
Please thank the following crews for joining forces and working safely to complete each phase of this project early, while maintaining the level of quality that makes us best in class.
- George Goodman – DOT concrete/bridge crew – arresting system removal & pour back
- Geoffrey Stafford – Hutchens sealing crew – asphalt crack and joint sealing
- Justin Craig – ESS Asphalt cold milling crew – asphalt pavement removal
- Justin White – ESS Asphalt cold milling crew – asphalt pavement removal
- Tony McMullen – ESS Asphalt paving crew – asphalt paving
- Buddy Johnson – Hutchens paving crew – asphalt paving