PLATTSBURGH — After being closed to airline traffic for more than two months, Plattsburgh International Airport’s runway is slated to reopen right on schedule at 7 a.m. Tuesday, June 22.
By Wednesday, crews had already completed paving as well as temporary markings and lighting of 4,400 feet of the airstrip’s midfield.
"It's been a long time coming," Airport Director Chris Kreig said. “We’re excited to get the airport back open.”
8,000 FEET NEEDED
About 4,000 feet of the 11,759-foot runway's southern end underwent reconstruction over the course of two projects completed in 2008 and 2018.
But the rest of the decades-old airstrip needed a makeover as well, so the runway was shut down on April 13 to allow for the two-phased repavement of the rest of it.
That began with the rubblization of the existing concrete, a process that wrapped up by the end of April.
Next, crews used rollers to compact the rubble into a new subbase, which was then milled down by five inches in preparation for the asphalt layers, Kreig said.
Finishing pavement of the midfield allows for both 7,000 feet of usable runway plus a 1,000-foot buffer area — demarcated by stripes — between construction crews and aircraft as they land and take off.
Kreig said that span can accommodate the regional jets and Airbuses used by Allegiant Air and SkyWest/United Express at the airport.
As of last week, 50,244 tons of asphalt — more than 2,000 dump truck loads — along with about 5.5 miles of airfield lighting cable had been put down, Kreig said.
Replacing the concrete instead of essentially recycling it and paving over it with asphalt could have doubled the amount of materials needed. Kreig said going that route would have made the project cost-prohibitive.
Clinton County, which owns the airport, is set to save $650,000 on the project, he has said.
That's because, under federal coronavirus relief legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration is covering the full cost. Normally, the FAA covers 90 percent of airport projects, with the remaining 10 percent being split between the state and the county.
By Wednesday, work on the remaining 3,700 feet of runway had already started. Crews on Tuesday applied an asphalt base coat to almost 800 feet.
Kreig said the weather — which can be the enemy of asphalt paving — has cooperated and that, for the scope of the project, it has gone remarkably smooth.
He anticipates that, so long as construction remains on schedule, the entire runway should be repaved by the beginning of August and finishing touches, including final striping, lighting work and grooving, should be done a month later.
“They’re making good progress out there," Kreig added.
C&S Companies of Syracuse designed the project, which has Rifenburg Construction Inc. of Troy as the general contractor.
With proper maintenance, the runway is expected to last about 20 years before the next time it needs to be repaved.
Flights out of Plattsburgh International are slated to resume Wednesday, June 23, and Kreig will be on one.
He is set to attend the Routes Americas 2021 conference in Orlando, Fla., which, according to the Clinton County Legislature’s resolution authorizing the trip, “provides organizations with a platform to discuss new business opportunities with the region’s leading airlines, airports and tourism authorities.’
“We’re always hoping to have productive conversations,” Kreig said.
“We certainly will discuss the fact that we’re in the process of finishing a major construction project on the runway and that will be a factor in the conversation, among other things.”
BEST WE COULD
Kreig hopes that, with the new pavement, people will notice a smoother ride, as he has in the vehicle he drives out on the runway.
He noted that airport terminals are one of the few places where mask-wearing is still required, and expressed appreciation for everyone's cooperation up to this point.
He takes as positives both how people have inquired about the runway's reopening and the potential for the easing of U.S.-Canada border restrictions.
“It was necessary to close the runway but I think we timed it the best that we could.”
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