Punta Gorda Closes Runway, Powers Through Rebuild Project

Punta Gorda Closes Runway, Powers Through Rebuild Project
Paul Nolan
Published in: 

File it under “good things come to those who wait.” The roughly year-long reconstruction and rehabilitation of the primary runway at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) was a welcome improvement that took patience, planning and lots of enabling projects.

Constructed in the 1940s, Runway 4-22 had received numerous repairs and improvements through the decades. However, a pavement assessment a few years ago made it clear that another patch job wasn’t going to cut it.

James Parish, chief executive officer of the Florida airport, explains that PGD was not only logging more landings and takeoffs as the post-COVID market heated up, it was also accommodating larger jets operated by the airport’s two growing commercial carriers, Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines. It was time to fully reconstruct the 7,193-foot main runway.

“We were asked to scope the job initially as a rehabilitation project,” recalls Paul Piro, vice president of design consultant Kimley-Horn. “As the geotechnical investigation was completed, it became apparent that the existing sub-base material was not sufficient enough to support the aircraft traffic through rehabilitation alone.”


Project: Runway & Taxiway Rehabilitation

Location: Punta Gorda (FL) Airport

Owner: Charlotte County Airport Authority

Runway: 4-22

Length: 7,193 ft.

Width: 150 ft.

Cost: $15.3 million

Full Funding: Airport Improvement Program grant

Scope: Center keel removed & reconstructed along entire length; remaining edges milled & resurfaced; new lighting

Timeline: 2022-Jan. 2023 (not including previous enabling work)

Noteworthy Detail: Airport closed to commercial traffic for 7 days to reconstruct taxiway that intersects with 2nd commercial runway

Project Designer & Consultant: Kimley-Horn & Associates

Contractor: Wright Construction Group


Airfield Markings: Hasco Inc.

Blast Pads: Asphalt paving by Preferred Materials; markings by Hasco Inc.

Other Projects: Extended & rehabilitated another runway in 2020 for $12 million; completed 4 separate taxiway projects 2020-2024 for $27.8 million; 2 more major taxiway rehabilitation projects scheduled through 2026 for $35.2 million

The Charlotte County Airport Authority received an FAA Airport Improvement Program grant for the full $15.3 million project cost. Following the completion of some major enabling projects, Runway 4-22 was closed in October 2021 and remained dormant until work was completed in December 2022.

The center keel of the runway was removed and reconstructed along its entire length. The remaining side portions were milled and resurfaced. All areas were paved with new asphalt, grooved and finished with freshly painted markings and new energy-efficient LED lighting from ADB SAFEGATE. In addition, the airport installed new blast pads at each end of the runway.

Seven-Day Shutdown

The most challenging and noteworthy aspect of the project was closing the airport to commercial flights for seven days in September 2022. This allowed crews to reconstruct the portion of Runway 4-22 that intersects with Runway 15-33. Runway 15-33, the airport’s other option for commercial jets, was used while Runway 4-22 was being reconstructed. Throughout the work, general aviation traffic continued on PGD’s third 2,600-foot runway, which is only used for that purpose.

Wright Construction Group, general contractor for the project, worked around the clock to complete the work on the intersecting runways so commercial traffic could resume as soon as possible. Project planners scheduled the seven-day closure for September because it is the slowest travel time of the year for the area and PGD. Airport officials worked more than a year in advance with executives from Allegiant and other partners to ensure the seven-day shutdown would not cause too much disruption. Sun Country, which operates seasonally to PGD, did not have any scheduled flights there during the shutdown.

“The reason this project was successful is the years of planning we put into it,” Parish reflects. “We got every stakeholder in a room to talk it through. Everybody knew about the seven-day shut down for a year and a half. It’s a logistical challenge to get all the planes that need to fly daily off the airport and make arrangements for them to be at other locations.”

Planners considered keeping the secondary commercial runway open during the day and completing work in overnight shifts, but ultimately decided against that approach. “It would have taken longer and it would have produced an inferior product because you’d have cold joints in the runway that would be a maintenance issue,” Piro explains.

Of course, shutting down commercial traffic meant losing some revenue, so it was scheduled for the least busy month of the year. The contract for this portion of the project consequently included penalties for Wright Construction if work was not completed on time. Ultimately, no penalties were assessed.

“The takeaway is the importance of collaboration between the airlines, the airport operator, the contractor and the engineer ahead of the closure of both runways,” Piro says. “It was critical that all parties were available and on site during that phase. Just being there during those late evening hours, when you’re working in the dark and anything is possible, added to the success of the project.”

Significant Preliminary Projects

The airport had to complete several enabling projects before any work could begin to rebuild Runway 4-22. The most significant one was extending Runway 15-33 by nearly 600 feet to 6,286 feet so it could accommodate larger commercial aircraft while 4-22 was shut down. That project began in fall 2019, required a temporary closure and took a year to complete.

In addition to extending Runway 15-33, crews resurfaced and grooved the pavement, painted fresh markings and installed sustainable LED fixtures. Blast pads were also added at each end of the longer, newly rehabilitated runway. The $12 million project was funded with $4.7 million from FAA, $3.7 million from the Florida Department of Transportation and $3.7 million from passenger facility charges.

Tune-Ups for Time-Worn Taxiways

Runways weren’t the only asphalt that needed improvements. Taxiways were showing wear from the same traffic that had deteriorated the runways. However, budgets can only be stretched so far, and PGD couldn’t close all of its taxiways for maintenance at once.

In August 2020, the airport began construction of a new general aviation ramp to serve its 13,500-square-foot PGD Air Center, the new FBO in the AviEx expansion area. That $17 million project was constructed in phases, with the last completed in August 2022.

A new general aviation ramp is one of several airfield improvement
projects that preceded the recently completed runway reconstruction.

The new general aviation ramp and extension of Taxiway E cost $9.3 million, and the Air Center facility cost $7 million.

With the reconstruction of Runway 4-22 completed in December 2022, rehabilitation of another taxiway—Taxiway D—kicked off in January 2023 and was completed last August. That project cost $10.5 million.

Construction of a new taxiway–Taxiway G–began last August and ended in March. Taxiway G connects to Runway 4-22 with minimal runway crossings and drastically reduces taxiing time in and out of the PGD Air Center and general aviation ramp. It also increases safety by reducing runway crossings. That project cost $7.3 million.

Two major asphalt rehabilitation projects are still in the works. Reconstruction of Taxiway C and the intersection of taxiways C and D will begin this October. That work is expected to cost $22.2 million and is scheduled to be finished in May 2025. In addition, a section of Taxiway A is scheduled for reconstruction from October to May 2025 at a cost of $13 million. These two remaining asphalt projects were originally going to be one larger project under the airport’s 2018 master plan, but inflation prompted the airport to separate them into two projects.

Parish notes that all runway and taxiway rehabilitation work requires meticulous planning to minimize disruption to commercial and general aviation traffic alike. And of course there are always budget considerations. Recent taxiway improvements were funded almost completely by FAA grants, with airport general funds used to cover the remaining costs.

One project PGD paid for entirely with its own funds was the $700,000 rehabilitation of the general aviation runway. That month-long project ended this February.

When asked if completing the two pending taxiway rehabilitations will allow him a chance to exhale, Parish laughed. He readily accepts that airfields always have pavement that needs attention.

Case in point: PGD rebuilt all of its commercial ramps in 2007 and in a few short years will start active planning to replace them.


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