Lincoln Airport Synchs Ancillary Airfield Projects With Runway Rehab

Dan Vnuk
Published in: 

Lincoln Airport (LNK), located just off Cornhusker Highway in Nebraska, recently put the finishing touches on a $6 million runway project - the first major rehabilitation of its 12,900-foot primary runway in about 20 years.

As local contractors resurfaced the asphalt and concrete on Runway 18-36, other crews were busy completing three unrelated projects elsewhere on the field. But before any of the work began, LNK had to re-bid its primary resurfacing project.

The first time the project was bid, the airport received only one proposal; and it was $1.25 million higher than expected. After formally rejecting that bid, the Lincoln Airport Authority divided the project into two components - concrete and asphalt - and solicited separate responses for each portion. Several local firms were interested in the concrete work, but it was tougher to find companies for the asphalt part, explains Jon Large, the airport's deputy director of engineering.

Project: Runway Resurfacing
Location: Lincoln (NE) Airport
Cost: $6 million
Funding: 90% FAA
Engineering Consultant: Alfred Benesch & Co.
Concrete Contractor: TCW Construction Inc.
Asphalt Contractor: Constructors Inc.
Runway Weather Info System: Boschung America
Runway Weather Info System Contractor: ABC Electric
Weather Sensors: Belfort
Runway Weather Info System Funding: $2.3 million Airport Improvement Program grant
Of Note: Airport installed surface monitoring sensors & coordinated with local utilities to schedule their projects while main runway was closed for resurfacing

Alfred Benesch & Co., the engineering consultant for the project, reached out to asphalt companies in Omaha, just 50 miles east of the airport and the state's largest city, but still didn't find much interest in the project. Even when Benesch expanded the search to Iowa, Kansas, northwest Missouri and western Nebraska, LNK still received just one proposal.

 "Although we only had one asphalt bid at the rebid, we did reduce the cost of the project significantly," reports Large.

Monitoring Mother Nature

With the resurfacing project scheduled to begin in early July, the airport also proceeded with another separate project: the installation of surface sensors on runways 18-36 and 14-32 and Taxiway D. In total, 12 sensors now gather data about LNK's surface conditions. The data they collect is combined with atmospheric data to produce detailed reports about current and forecasted operating conditions, explains Large.

Data collected by the recently installed sensors includes pavement temperature, subsurface temperature, surface moisture, surface ice and moisture melting temperature. Atmospheric data collected from another set of Belfort sensors includes wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, humidity and current precipitation. After system provider Boschung America processes the two data sets using a system of proprietary algorithms, it reports the results back to LNK via the Internet.

"With the information provided by the system, including alerts and warnings of predicted conditions, we can now make accurate and timely decisions about how to deploy our resources to deal with inclement weather conditions," says Large.

Access Granted

In a key example of cooperation between government entities, two local utilities adjusted their schedules to complete much-needed projects while LNK's primary runway was closed for resurfacing. 

The Lincoln Wastewater System added more than 1,500 feet of trunk sewer main and refurbished 2,300 linear feet of aging 48-inch sewer main. "These were actually projects that Lincoln Wastewater had wanted to do two years ago, but delayed to take advantage of our runway closure and minimize disruptions to the airport," Large explains.

Conversely, Lincoln Electric Systems accelerated its plans to retire and rebuild a 1950s transmission line in order to synchronize schedules with LNK's runway work. In addition to decommissioning a 115-KV line, crews installed three sets of bores under Runway 18-36 and two parallel taxiways to provide pathways for replacement lines. Completing the preliminary work provides the electric utility with capacity to further grow its system in the future, notes Large.

New Leadership

Not long after the runway project was complete, David Haring was named LNK's new executive director. Haring assumed the position in September, when its former director, John Wood, retired after managing the airport for 18 years.

Haring arrived in Lincoln (which was recently named one of the Top Ten Most Welcoming U.S. Cities) with 13 years of industry experience, most recently as director of aviation at Cheyenne Regional Airport in Wyoming.

"The reopening of the Runway 18-36 is the culmination of months of effort aimed at the long-term preservation of both safety and capacity at Lincoln Airport," Haring says. "The hard work and cooperation exhibited by our engineers, the two general contractors and the local utility crews, coupled with the patience of our tenants and users, allowed the airport to open the runway both on time and on budget." 

While acknowledging that all airport improvement projects include challenges, he praises the dedication of the team involved in LNK's runway renovation. "It assured that the airport's primary runway will continue to play a pivotal role in not only serving the needs of aviation consumers in Lincoln and the Midwest, but also those throughout the national airspace system for years to come," he comments.

Between its three runways, LNK serves an estimated 270,000 passengers per year. Commercial service includes daily flights to four major U.S. hubs by Delta and United Airlines. The airport also serves charter and general aviation customers and is the home base of the Nebraska Air National Guard.

"Over the last two decades, Lincoln Airport has continued to diversify its operational activities in an ongoing effort to achieve long-term economic viability," he notes. "Traditional sources of revenue such as landing fees, passenger terminal fees and general aviation fees have continued to show steady levels of growth."

Landside Projects

Haring highlights Air Park West as a particularly bright spot on LNK's balance sheet. "The airport's efforts to redevelop and enhance its industrial park have yielded exceptional results," he reports. "Operational revenue attributed to the industrial park grew in excess of 10% (this) fiscal year alone - from $5.24 million to $5.84 million."

Although most of the increases came from existing tenants and were prompted by airport-financed expansions, they are expected to continue. "While the overall growth comes at the cost of a similar amount of debt, the long-term fiscal ramifications of these activities will place the airport on solid financial footing years into the future," Haring explains.

The industrial park did, however, recently welcome a new tenant. In mid-August, LNK held a groundbreaking ceremony for a $9 million crime laboratory the airport authority is building for the Nebraska State Patrol. Project planners note that when it's complete, the 28,000-square-foot facility will contain some of the most sophisticated forensic analysis equipment available for criminal investigation.


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