Keeping Animals Out & Tenants Happy

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Until late last year, Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) had a hodgepodge of perimeter fencing. Some areas had two- or four-strand barbed wire while other areas had woven wire fencing. Three different heights of chain link products protected still other portions of the two-runway commercial airport between Denver and Salt Lake City.


Project: Perimeter Fencing

Location: Grand Junction (CO) Regional Airport

Cost: $5 million (to date)

Funding: Federal AIP (95%), state (2.5%), local (2.5%)

Design & Engineering: Jviation

Prime Contractor: Nationwide Construction Group

Earthwork: Upland Companies

Concrete Paving: M & M Concrete

Surveying: Souder, Miller & Assoc.

Electrical: E.C. Electric

Access Control: Henry Brothers/Kratos

Information Technology:
Networks Unlimited & Sequent Information Services

Fencing Subcontractors: Taylor Fencing, Valleywide Fence

Design Survey Consultant:
River City Consultants

Retaining Wall Design: TopKnot Engineering

Access Control Consultant: Burt Singleton

Gates: Wallace Int'l., Tilt-A-Way

Access Control System: Lenel On-Guard

Card Readers & Scanners: Morphotrak

"There was no standard, so we decided to replace everything," reports director of aviation Rex Tippetts. The project, which has cost approximately $5 million to date, was a direct response to an FAA-required wildlife hazard assessment in 2008. The study recommended installation of a chain link, three-strand barbed wire fence with a wildlife deterrent skirt along the bottom around the entire perimeter of the airport. In November, the airport completed two-thirds of its three-phase fencing project - more than it intended, thanks largely to hungry contractors.

"When the project was bid out in October 2010, we weren't sure what to expect, given the economy," recalls Jason Virzi, project manager for engineer of record Jviation. "But we took a chance, adding some alternatives that would allow us to complete more of the project depending on how the bids came in. They came in considerably under the engineer's estimate, so we were essentially able to construct the first two phases in one phase."

Cost estimates for the remaining phase range from $3 million to $4 million.

Airport Improvement Program funding covered 95% of the recently completed portion. State and local governments paid for the remaining 5%.

Lots of Linear Feet

The program included the removal of 28,555 linear feet of existing four-strand barbed wire, installation of 36,400 feet of black PVC-coated eight-foot chain link fence and the burial of 26,180 linear feet of chain link fabric to prevent wildlife from burrowing beneath the fence. It also included the construction of concrete pavement islands at the gate entrances and installation of 25,800 feet of fiber-optic cable.

For vehicle access, nine 14- to 20-foot-wide Wallace International bi-fold speed gates and three Tilt-A-Way 16-foot-wide hydraulically powered vertical pivot gates were installed. The pivot gates feature thermostatically controlled heating elements to maintain operation in Colorado's cold weather. The vehicle gates and two pedestrian gates are controlled by a new access control system that monitors the status of doors within the terminal and at the vehicle gates. Card readers equipped with biometric readers that can be used as a standard proxy-card reader, fingerprint scanner or both were installed at all access points. Surveillance cameras provide visual monitoring at each gate, and alarms notify airport staff if the system is breached.

The Human Side

While GJT's perimeter fencing upgrade began as a wildlife deterrence effort, the scope of the project had to be broadened considerably when the design was submitted to TSA for approval.

TSA issued a security directive requiring the airport to control access to all air operations areas. "This requirement came up late in the design process, well after we had put pencil to paper," recalls Jviation project engineer Chris Giessing.

Meeting TSA's gating requirements without blowing the project's budget became quite a conundrum. The original design followed the airport's existing fence lines, and tenant and public access was not a concern.

"Prior to this fencing project, we had 110 access points to the airfield," Tippetts recalls, noting how difficult it was to track who was coming and going.  "A number of our hangars lay along the fence line, which gave tenants direct access to their hangar and to the airfield."

To resolve this problem, the new design divided the airport into seven zones, each with controlled access to the airfield. This reduced the airport's previous 110 access points to 27 access points - 16 at the terminal building and 11 at gates. All are controlled by card readers and monitored from within the terminal building.

Tenant reaction to the change has been mixed, reports Tippetts. "It kind of follows a bell curve," he elaborates. "Some people are extremely opposed, but the majority fall within that curve of not liking it but understanding why it had to be done."

Most of the controversy stemmed from changes in the general aviation area. "We didn't have much choice," Tippetts explains. "To control access, we had to move the fence back away from the hangars along the fence line, which meant tenants now have to go through designated gates controlled by card readers to gain access to their facilities."

Leaving all the previous access points in place and adding control mechanisms to them was simply not feasible, he says, noting that it would have cost about $2 million more.

Drafting the Right Players

The project proved challenging on a number of different fronts. For example, Jviation and the airport preferred to lock in particular elements of the project before the overall design was finalized and put out for bid - a method at odds with FAA rules designed to ensure fair and open bidding.

"We interviewed five or six access control software manufacturers," Giessing recalls. "While they all had varying degrees of functionality, we were finding it difficult to write a specification for this part of the design because we couldn't determine exactly what we would end up with."

With one particular software program standing out as having the functionality the airport needed, officials requested and received FAA permission to purchase the program and some other required equipment outside the bidding process.

The sheer geographic expanse of the 280-day project also put crews to the test, notes Jviation construction manager Mike Quinn. To maintain security, temporary fencing had to be installed while old fencing was removed and new fencing put up.

"Coordinating the work of all the contractors and subcontractors over approximately seven miles of fence line was definitely a challenge," Quinn emphasizes.

Virzi agrees: "So many different players were involved. There was airport engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, topographical surveying, geotechnical design, retaining wall design, drainage design, access control design, IT design. It was a real challenge to keep so many disciplines working in concert."

Construction of the remaining fence for the north side of the airport is scheduled for fall 2013. Before that, however, the airport plans to build a new runway approximately 650 feet north of the existing runway. Completion of the entire project is slated for spring 2015.


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