Flights resumed on John F. Kennedy International Airport’s “Bay Runway,” the region’s longest and busiest runway, on June 28 after a four-month closing to reconstruct the runway, implement flight delay meas- ures, increase the width to handle the world’s largest commercial planes, and transform it into a state-of-the-art runway for the future.
The project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule, ensuring that airlines could function at full capacity as the busy summer travel season ramps up.
As the Bay Runway – last refurbished in 1993 – and its asphalt overlay approached the end of its lifespan, the Port Authority researched the available options. The agency’s planning aimed to increase the utility and efficiency of the runway and decrease the maintenance costs, all while providing tangible benefits for the customer.
The Bay Runway’s new concrete surface is expected to last 40 years, replacing the 13- year-old asphalt surface, which has a much shorter useful life. It will produce an estimated long-term savings of $500 million and while reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.
In addition, high-speed aircraft exits and access taxiways were part of the Port Authority’s delay-reduction program so planes can take off and land on the runway faster than ever before and so aircraft queuing could be reduced. These initiatives are estimated to reduce flight delays by 10,500 hours a year.
The $348.1 million runway project supports 2,500 jobs, including direct construction work, asphalt and concrete production, running aeronautical lighting and food services. A total of $15 million was obtained through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the rest funded by the FAA and the Port Authority.
JFK handles 48 million passengers annually as one of the nation’s busiest airports, with the Bay Runway typically handling a third of the traffic.
Work began on the 14,572-foot long Bay Runway – the longest at JFK by more than 3,000 feet – in July 2009. On March 1, the bulk of the work commenced with the four-month closing to complete 10,925 feet of the runway. The runway reopened on June 28 with all navigational features. The remaining 3,647 feet of the runway work will be completed in two phases in the coming months.
Environmental considerations were integral to the project. Approximately 300,000 tons of asphalt millings was reused on the runway’s sub-base, taxiways and service roads. Much of the truck traffic remained on-site because of the proximity of the specially built concrete plants, speeding work and limiting congestion on area roadways. Additionally, a total of seven acres of installed turf grass for the project will help reduce erosion and improve filtration.
The Bay Runway – one of only three in the U.S. long enough to land the NASA space shuttle – used enough concrete in this project to fill the New Meadowlands Stadium to a height of 64 feet.