Naples Municipal Stops Cracks on Primary Runway with Reinforcing Grid

Jennifer Bradley
Published in: 


Project: Runway Rehabilitation

Location: Naples (FL) Municipal Airport

Runway: 5/23

Length: Expanded to 6,600 ft.

Total Cost: $2.3 million

FAA Funding: $2.2 million

Engineer: Kimley-Horn & Associates

Asphalt Mix: P401

Supplemental Product: GlasGrid(r) Pavement Reinforcement System 8511

Amount Used: 30,000 sq. yds.

Manufacturer: Saint-Gobain ADFORS

Nat'l Distributor: Tensar Int'l Corp.

FL Distributor: National Highway Maintenance Systems, Ltd.

Contractor: Better Roads

Subcontractor/GlasGrid Installation Team: Landsaver Environmental

Rehab Completed: Dec. 2010

Extension Completed: Jan. 2012

Related Projects: Runway Safety Areas & Jet Blast Deflectors

Jet Blast Deflectors: Blast Deflectors Inc.

General Contractor: Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.

"Asphalt is like skin," says Tom O'Donnell, an engineer from Kimley-Horn & Associates. "After time and wear, it shows its age. If you get to the cracks early enough, however, you save a lot of money."

Naples Municipal Airport (APF) in Florida tended to its cracks in 2010, after officials learned its primary and longest runway, 5/23, needed serious work. When maintenance personnel detected deep cracks in the asphalt very close to the foundation on the south side of the runway, the airport contracted Kimley-Horn & Associates to devise a rehabilitation strategy.

Simply milling the asphalt then repaving and sealing the runway wasn't an option, explains O'Donnell. So he turned to Bill Leahy, manager of National Highway Maintenance Systems, to help provide APF with a healthy runway for the next 20 years.

Halting the Cracks

The FAA appreciated the airport's timely detection of the pavement stress and funded about 95% of its $2.3 million rehabilitation, reports Ted Soliday, executive director at APF.

Certain sections of the pavement had not been improved for more than two decades, and some of the base material dated back to the 1940s, when the runway was built. "It was in serious condition," Soliday recalls.

Several years prior, part of Runway 5/23 had been dug up and promptly repaved in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to determine what was distressing the asphalt pavement. But O'Donnell advised against paving over the problem once again, and Soliday agreed.

Leahy recommended fortifying the pavement with GlasGrid(r) Pavement Reinforcement System 8511 based on a number of factors, including the results of nondestructive testing and South Florida's climate, which can cook airport pavement at temperatures up to 150° F. The runway's visible network of longitudinal and transverse cracking, and the associated low Pavement Condition Index score it earned, were also key considerations.

According to the product's manufacturer, Saint-Gobain ADFORS, GlasGrid doubles or triples the lifecycle of asphalt by reducing reflective cracking - a primary issue on Runway 5/23. The product has always been a good fit for airports, and its performance claims are backed by 20 years of testing, notes Dan Hunt, the company's product sales manager.

GlasGrid was commercialized back in 1989, adds Greg Lyons, technical service manager for Saint-Gobain ADFORS. The first airports to install it - Toronto Pearson International and Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International - have continued to use it for subsequent projects, he reports.

Leahy commends APF for choosing GlasGrid, a product he puts in the "you-get-what-you-pay-for" category. While he acknowledges that it's more costly than other asphalt remedies, he stresses that it provides a long- lasting runway that saves on overall maintenance expenses.

Saint-Gobain ADFORS describes the product as a mesh-like mat made of fiberglass that is coated in elastomeric polymer to protect the fiberglass fibers and maximize the product's overall tensile strength.

Tensar International, the exclusive distributor for the GlasGrid product line in the Americas, explains that GlasGrid complements asphalt pavement, which possesses good compressive strength, but cracks under tensile stresses caused by temperature changes and heavy loads when it's not otherwise reinforced. "The time comes when the surfaces are deteriorated to the point that the cracks need to be sealed," explains Scott Whaley, Tensar's regional sales manager. "But when surface water gets in the cracks, it can compromise the subgrade and overall pavement structure."

GlasGrid, he continues, provides a tensile element between the new asphalt overlay and the existing asphalt - an element that distributes loads from the cracks laterally rather than vertically and delays the rate at which cracks rise again. In addition, the product's pressure-sensitive adhesive provides a strong bond to the leveling course, which allows crews to use less asphalt tack and saves time and money, Lyons adds.

Both O'Donnell and Soliday deem the product a success at APF. It helped solve the reflective cracking issue on Runway 5/23, and prevented further cracks from initiating, they report.

"GlasGrid solves an old problem in a better way," notes O'Donnell.

After more than two years since the installation, Soliday is glad the airport followed the advice of its engineering and product advisors. "Putting that down was the right thing to do, and it has worked well," he reflects.

Leahy also stands by the choice of a "value-added product," and predicts it will demonstrate its financial worth many times over. "(Airports) want it done once, want it done right and want it to last a long time, with decreased maintenance costs," he explains.

Soliday likes that sentiment. "We don't break budgets," he says, noting that prudent spending has helped airport management form a trusting relationship with its board members. They appreciate timeliness and staying on budget, he adds.

Snowbird Scheduling

While most airports plan runway work around local weather forecasts, APF was more attuned to conditions halfway across the country when scheduling its 5/23 rehab. The runway had to be ready before temperatures "up north" dropped and drove snowbirds south to APF in flocks of private and chartered aircraft.

Although the South Florida airport is certified for commercial traffic, it hasn't had any for years. JetBlue Airways recently considered adding service, but officially suspended its evaluation last fall. In 2012, however, APF was named the state's general aviation airport of the year by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Given the airport's distinctive customer base and scheduling constraints, O'Donnell considered it essential to understand the project's unique needs. But those needs changed dramatically when the airport's resident engineer retired mid-project. Resolute about staying on schedule, Soliday personally took over the project. "You get the work done," he reflects.

The "team aspect" became very important, and the engineering group, general contractor, subcontractors and airport personnel all contributed to the project's successful completion, recalls Leahy.

Good communication with the airport's 400+ tenants was also an important aspect, adds Soliday. With notification that the airport would close for 11?2 days, aircraft owners "checked on their houses" before the shutdown. "It was neat to see them all fly in," he recalls.

O'Donnell, a self-described taskmaster, worked multiple crews at full speed to expedite the runway work. "An airport's an important thing to the community," he notes. "So when you shut it down, it's a big deal."

Soliday couldn't agree more, and was disappointed that controllers had to divert some traffic to surrounding airports. "But we did get it done and open before our season started, which was critical," he relates.

APF's marketing campaign encourages travelers to "Fly Naples;" airport officials reason that ongoing improvements like the rehab of Runway 5/23 will help facilitate that for a long time to come.

Runway Extension Optimizes Resources

About a year after Naples Municipal Airport (APF) finished the rehabilitation of Runway 5/23, the Naples Airport Authority improved it again by investing $3.6 million to add safety areas and 102-foot-long jet blast deflectors to both ends .

As with the previous project, it was important to have the airport's primary runway open to traffic for the Thanksgiving holiday and annual influx of snowbirds from the north. Crews completed the work in just less than four months.

Executive Director Ted Soliday notes that the runway improvements enhance three vital areas for the airport: sound attenuation, safety and service.

The new pavement required for the safety areas also provides an additional 800 feet of takeoff length, which allows aircraft to climb higher more rapidly and, in turn, reduces associated noise for airport neighbors. In addition, the extra length also provides supplementary runway space for aborted takeoffs or emergencies that may arise.

Potentially, the runway enhancements could help pave the way for the return of commercial service to the airport. With strictly general aviation traffic, APF logged more than 87,000 operations in 2011.



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