Airports depend on safe facilities and operations to help deliver convenient and efficient services for passengers, cargo and other critical components in the air transportation business. But with things like pebbles, potholes and other pavement problems standing in the way — foreign object debris (FOD) damage estimates are estimated to be $4 billion a year — airport owners have found themselves facing challenges as their facilities age.

For officials at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), that meant embarking on a major runway rehabilitation program. Here’s a look at how our aviation team completed the upgrades, while keeping operational disruptions to a minimum.

The Backstory

The Kansas City Aviation Department (KCAD) hired Burns & McDonnell in 2013 to design the Rehabilitation of Runway 1R-19L. Spalling associated with durability cracking (D-Cracking) in the existing Portland cement concrete, or PCC, had been getting progressively worse, and a petrographic analysis had ruled out the possibility of alkali-silica reaction (ASR) — a reaction that can occur over time causing extensive expansion and cracking in concrete.

Preliminary studies determined that the base course was in excellent condition, allowing us to remove the top 17-plus inches of PCC, and replace it with a new PCC surface. The work was split into two construction packages — one in 2015 and the other in 2016 — so that the airport could maintain winter use of both parallel runways for operations.

The Solution

First up was the runway pavement north of the intersection with Runway 9-27. Studies showed that existing limestone aggregate on site was inadequate for the job. Working with representatives from a number of agencies — the FAA, KCAD, Kansas City Metro Materials Board (KCMMB), American Concrete Pavement Assn. (ACPA) and local public works directors — we reached an agreement on a modified Portland cement concrete FAA specification (P-501). The goal: Reduce the potential for further PCC distress related to poor materials. The final design included new in-pavement and runway edge lighting, new striping and full-depth removal of Taxiway E-3, from Runway 1R-19L to Taxiway E.

Next came the remainder of the runway, including the intersection with Runway 9-27. This package included in-pavement and runway/taxiway edge lighting design, new stormwater drainage evaluation and design, and new airfield pavement marking. Among major differences from the first package:

  • Relocating Taxiway E-6 — located too close to the Runway Safety Area for Runway 9-27, according to the FAA — to the south. That meant providing complete pavement design, including use of lime-stabilized subgrade, 6 inches of FAA P-209 Crushed Aggregate, 6 inches of P-306 Econocrete Base Course and 17 inches of P-501 concrete. The design also included geometry complying with new AC requirements, plus new pavement underdrains, airfield lighting and installation of taxiway centerline cans for future use.
  • Including a complex Construction Safety and Phasing Plan (CSPP) that addressed issues raised by replacement of the intersection of Runway 1R-19L and Runway 9-27.

The video below, captured using a camera-mounted drone, shows several sections of the combined project, including the completed north portion of Runway 1R-19L; batch plant operations; and paving of the intersection of Runways 1R-19L and 9-27.

With the project now complete, flights landing at MCI are enjoying smoother, safer landings. For a more in-depth look at this project check out the article I wrote for Airport Magazine last year.

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Jason Fuehne, PE, is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell, where he designs pavement and drainage systems for runways and taxiways, and plans pavement management and maintenance programs for airports.