It’s hard to launch a construction project of any size at land-locked Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). Surrounded by water to the north, east and south, and bordered by a city neighborhood to the west, planners have very little wiggle room to divert traffic and virtually no ability to suspend operations.
So when BOS embarked on what eventually ended as a $55.7 million project to reinforce the roadway and structures around its Terminal B parking garage, Sam Sleiman, Massport’s director of Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs, opted for a construction manager-at-risk bidding process. The format required Consigli Construction, the company that won the bid, to stay in constant communication with the design team to develop solutions to reduce cost and speed efficiency before construction even began.
Project: Reinforce Parking Garage & Terminal Roadway
Airport: Boston Logan Int’l Airport
Cost: $55.7 million
Construction: 23 months
Construction Manager at Risk:
Architect: Fay, Spofford & Thorndike
Ancillary Projects: Installation of LED lighting, solar trees, security devices & rainwater collection system
Of Note: Project was completed almost $12 million under budget & 11 months ahead of schedule
As a gateway airport with most of its traffic starting and ending locally, BOS was especially determined to not disrupt passenger traffic during construction, notes Massport Director of Aviation Ed Freni. The airport staff has become adept at this, and at constructing buildings and improving existing structures on the airport’s relatively small footprint, during a comprehensive modernization program spanning the last 10 years, Freni adds.
The 2,700-space garage, which was originally constructed by the airlines in 1974, now serves two sides of Terminal B, because the airport essentially grew around it. When the adjacent roadways were constructed in the 1970s, however, they were not built for the heavy trucks, buses and sport utility vehicles that travel them today, notes Sleiman.
“We need to look at all aspects of our passengers’ experiences — from the moment they leave home, drive to the airport, get to the gate, find their way back to Baggage Claim and head for home again,” relates Sleiman. “Most of our passengers rely upon us to ensure they have safe, efficient roadways to use at Logan. Because the roads are used nearly nonstop around the clock, the window of opportunity we were afforded to actually close the roadways to complete the reconstruction was very limited.”
It was consequently unnerving for Sleiman and other airport officials to consider the prospect of 28 weekends of construction— the time originally expected to update BOS’ roadways.
“It was quite a project, and we had to complete it while the airport was in operation,” Freni explains. “Some of the work, such as paving, required us to actually divert traffic to the lower level of the parking garage, which we set up like a traditional curbside drop-off point.”
The process resulted in a slight slowdown for picking up and dropping off passengers, but Freni says customers didn’t notice much of a difference. American Airlines and US Airways, the two carriers housed in Terminal B, stationed skycaps at the temporary pickup and drop-off points to assist passengers.
Massachusetts State Police personnel, who enforce traffic at the airport, were instrumental in helping ensure that there were no serious disruptions to airport operations, Freni adds.
“Beaming” with Efficiency
The largest portion of construction entailed adding new beams and rebuilding the entire surface of the roadway surrounding the terminal to increase the strength of the parking structure. Because the work was performed without closing the terminal building, phasing was key, says Peter Howe, president and CEO of design firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike.
The most challenging aspect was the installation of 240 new concrete beams on both sides of the garage. Each beam was 60 feet long and weighed 10 tons. But before the new beams could be installed, the existing support girder needed to be repaired, explains Jim Hervol, project executive for Consigli Construction. The upper deck of the garage had to be hydraulically lifted to take the load off the support girder while it was repaired. After the support girder was repaired, crews removed the temporary jacks and installed the new beams.
Maneuvering each of the 240 beams into position required precision and skill, Freni emphasizes. To determine the best way to move the huge, bulky beams and accurately gauge how the process would affect airport operations, Consigli fabricated a 2,500-pound wooden beam in the same dimensions as the heavier precast concrete beams.
“It worked perfectly to simulate what it would take to move the beams into position, how long it would take to install each one and what level of service disruption we could expect during the process,” recalls Sleiman. “By practicing, we could time the installs to ensure the least amount of disruption possible.”
That often meant working between 2 and 5 a.m., after the last aircraft arrived around midnight and airport staff felt all passengers had exited the airport. “The process required close coordination between the contractors, police, customers and airport staff,” says Freni. “In the end, the mockup structure worked perfectly and helped us get the beams installed much faster than we anticipated.”
After practicing with the mockup, crews placed the first 10 beams in one hour each. After additional experience with the heavier beams, however, they were able to pop a 10-ton beam into place in just 20 minutes, reports Sleiman.
“The construction crew demonstrated incredible efficiency as they learned how to deliver the beams, get them ready to be installed, deploy the lifting mechanism and secure the beams in place,” recalls Sleiman. “It was like watching clockwork in action, because they always got the job done and the roadway back into service before the first passengers started arriving the next day.”
Although crews were supposed to have a five- to six-hour window each night to complete the work, weather issues and flight delays sometimes cut their time in half. Like a Boy Scout, however, Sleiman was prepared.
“We developed plans in stages,” he explains. “If everything was on time, we knew what we could do. But, if a flight was delayed by 90 minutes, we knew what we could do in the interim to keep the project moving forward.”
For example, if passengers still needed to leave the airport, crews left one lane open for departing traffic instead of shutting down all the lanes.
A few times, numerous delayed flights included hundreds of extra passengers. “Because the amount of bus and taxi traffic would be so significant, we knew we couldn’t close any lanes for several hours,” Sleiman recalls. “We were always making adjustments based on the situation, but the crew kept moving the project forward.”
Howe attributes the successful cooperation to having everyone — construction manager, engineers, designers and sub-consultants — co-located on site in the same work trailer.
“It is not unusual for a contractor to supply a trailer to serve as an onsite office, but this was a huge trailer,” clarifies Howe. “It was more like a modular classroom — with 10 offices, a large conference room and plenty of space for file storage. That allowed us to meet as often as necessary with everyone in the same place and having access to critical data, maps and drawings.”
Shutting it Down
When it came to rebuilding the roadway, rerouting traffic in different patterns throughout the airport over a 28-week schedule was initially considered to be the best-case scenario. By shutting down the roadway from late Friday night to early Monday morning, traffic could continue maneuvering around the airport during busy weekdays.
Then, Consigli proposed shutting down the entire roadway around Terminal B to allow crews to complete the project more quickly.
“We were a little nervous about the idea at first,” acknowledges Sleiman. “We didn’t know how the public would react to the plan. But we explained that consolidating the construction into a very short window that would impact passengers for a little while was actually a much better option than dragging it out for more than half a year.”
Planners subsequently decided to reroute all traffic off the roadway. All vehicles except buses were redirected into a temporary drop-off point in the lower level of the parking garage, which had the least amount of paid parking spaces. All of the spaces in the lower level were used to maneuver traffic into, around and out of the construction zone; spaces on other levels were used to position equipment so concrete could be poured and workers still had plenty of space to do their jobs safely.
“We lost some parking revenue (three weeks’ worth), but that was not nearly as important as making sure passenger convenience was not impacted one day longer than necessary,” says Sleiman.
Strategic coordination and good weather helped to drastically cut construction time and save money as well.
“Shutting down the departures level and redirecting traffic to the arrivals level was supposed to take two long weekends to complete, but it was completed during much shorter windows on each extended weekend,” says Howe.
Several people involved with the project dub Sleiman a “visionary” for finding strategic ways to get phases done efficiently. Rewiring the garage and installing LED lighting during the main project was just one example cited of his foresight.
“When we closed the roadway to resurface the pavement, we had electricians working right behind the pavers to install the lights, so that we wouldn’t have to close any portion of the roadway at a later date,” Sleiman explains matter-of-factly.
“Massport took a big initiative to ‘go green’ whenever possible,” says Hervol. “Our goal was to find ways to generate 5 percent of total power needs from renewable energy.”
Sixteen solar “trees” that were installed on the garage became a highlight of the project. Together, the units produce 84,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year — 2.5% of the garage’s annual consumption, notes Freni. It’s also the equivalent of 115 barrels of oil and more than 50 tons of reduced carbon emissions, he adds.
Every light fixture in the garage was updated to take advantage of LED technology; and the wiring that powers the lights was updated as well. The new lights burn brighter, last longer and save more than 2 million kilowatts of electricity per year, says Freni.
“Replacing the lights with LEDs reduced power consumption in the garage by 49 percent,” Sleiman reports.
The new energy-efficient lights are also equipped with time-of-day controls and motion sensors that turn some lights off when the area is inactive, Hervol adds.
Another green feature is the system that channels runoff from the garage’s roof into a system that separates oil from the water, then stores it in tanks for irrigation or cleaning the garage.
“The way the garage was originally built, water flowing from the roof found its way into Boston Harbor. Water from the first to fourth floors of the garage was funneled into the sewer system and sent to a wastewater treatment facility,” Hervol contrasts.
The Environmental Protection Agency mandated a collection and filtration system for the new facility.
“The people of Boston are very interested in environmental conservation,” says Freni. “They appreciate that we’re taking steps to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce our need for traditionally generated power.”
A new security system allows visitors who are scared, concerned or even lost to summon help by pushing the button at one of the blue towers located throughout the parking garage. When they do, a camera is activated that allows personnel in the command center to see what’s happening and talk to the caller to determine what type of help to provide.
Outside the garage, new flashing pavement lights and higher visibility crosswalks with flashing signs help alert motorists to pedestrian areas. Additional street lights were also added to brighten the walkway from above.
“The signs really do attract attention and clearly outline the crosswalk,” says Hervol. “It helps encourage drivers to slow down as they near the terminal.”
In the end, the team’s various efforts paid off handsomely. The project that was originally budgeted for $67.5 million came in with a final price tag of $55.7 million, making Massport the “darling of city planners,” Sleiman relates. In addition, it was completed fully 11 months earlier than initially projected.
“This was an extremely successful project for us,” reports Freni.
Sleiman was impressed by the way BOS rallied during the project. “I have never seen an airport community come together like this to address a common challenge,” he notes. “Every airport department sent volunteers to the terminal to help passengers navigate during the seven days the roadway was completely shut down. It was a huge team effort, not just for the aviation department, but for the entire port authority.
“We derived a great deal of satisfaction in seeing this project come together so smoothly and so quickly thanks to the cooperation of multiple departments,” he adds. “To know that we were able to pull off a project of this magnitude with so few problems — and then come in (more than) $10 million under budget and nearly a year early — was just an amazing feat, in my opinion.”
With the garage and associated roadwork complete, BOS is ready to begin the next major step in its modernization plan: construction of a new rental car facility. When complete, the new facility will consolidate all 10 of the airport’s vendors in a single location, closer to the terminal. It’s also expected to consolidate 120 bus trips per hour to just 29, continuing the airport’s ongoing efforts to reduce traffic and emissions.