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Airport/Mass Transit
November 2005 - Feature Story

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

5-Year Expansion Jets Toward Completion

By Paula Widholm

The $1.06 billion phase-oneexpansion of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is the largest capital improvement project in the city's history. The project began in 2001, and the current focus is a $77 million runway. The amount of concrete used to pave this new airfield complex would be enough to cover a football field with a solid block of concrete about seven stories tall.

 The $1.06 billion, phase one expansion program at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is the largest capital improvement project in St. Louis history.


The five-year project, which has involved 550 companies, should be complete in April.

The focus of the expansion is the new Runway 11-29 just west of the existing airport. This runway will allow for simultaneous landings in inclement weather and boost the airport's overall capacity 43-51 percent, said Chuck Reitter, public information manager for SPK Team, a joint venture of St. Louis firms Jacobs Sverdrup, Parsons and Kwame, which is managing the design and construction.

However, the expansion involves much more than the $77 million construction of the runway.

Lambert is acquiring more than 1,500 acres of land, increasing the airport's size by more than 50 percent. Seven major roads west and north of the airport have been adjusted or relocated.

Lindbergh Boulevard, a thoroughfare that carries 50,000 vehicles a day, now passes beneath the new runway through Missouri's first highway tunnel. The Missouri Air National Guard facility eventually will be moved to the north side of the airport. A number of airport support operations ultimately will move into new facilities.

The expansion also funded the design and construction of a new school in the Pattonville School District.

The funding for phase one comes from general airport revenue, airport bonds paid for by airport revenue, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and passenger ticket fees of about $4.50.

By the time the new runway, relocated roadways and related projects are completed in 2006, approximately $450 million in design and construction contracts will have been let.

Runway 11-29

Work on Runway 11-29 and accompanying taxiways began in the second half of 2004. The amount of concrete being used to pave this new airfield complex would be enough to cover a football field with a solid block of concrete about seven stories tall.

The new runway is 9,000 ft. long and 150 ft. wide. It is being built on a 455-acre platform that has been under construction onsite since 2001 in Bridgeton, Mo. Thirty ft. below this platform, an underground drainage system was built.

The runway and taxiway pavement consists of three primary components. After the underlying soil is leveled and compacted, a 10 in. layer of crushed rock is placed. Then, a 6-in. layer of drainable concrete is poured. Shallow trenches are cut out to house electrical conduit, and locations of in-pavement lighting fixtures are bored.

The final component of the runway and taxiways is an 18-in. layer of concrete. Each section is 37.5 ft. wide and nearly a quarter-mile long, and more than 30 of these concrete sections are planned for the runway and taxiways.

Steel dowel bars are inserted into holes drilled into the edges of dried concrete segments to join the sections side-by-side.

The project also involves major electrical work to power lighting fixtures throughout the new airfield. Nearly 75 mi. of high-powered wiring is being installed, as well as about 62 mi. of duct banks that carry utility wires and piping underground.

The prime construction contractor for the runway is Fred Weber Inc./Millstone-Bangert Inc., A Joint Venture, in St. Louis, and the prime electrical contractor is Sachs Co. of St. Louis.

Extreme Excavating

Over five years, 13.5 million cu. yards of soil will be moved as part of the overall expansion. That's enough to fill Busch Stadium five times.

The project marks one of the first uses of new computerized earth-moving equipment that nearly eliminates the need for traditional surveyors' stakes. Dave Kolb Grading Inc. of St. Charles, Mo., is the earth-moving project's prime contractor.

"We have our grading plan developed in the digital terrain model, which is uploaded to the total station unit," said Steve Pembleton, SPK construction manager. "The total station unit is robotic and tracks the prism that is mounted on the paving or trimming equipment. The prism adjusts the line left or right, up or down to match the dtm. There's no trim lines or stakes."

Pembleton said the benefits of this technology included saving several days in setting up string lines and the flexibility to quickly move around to excavate in different areas.

State's First Traffic Tunnel

A $50 million traffic tunnel is part of the $121 million overall cost of the new route of Lindbergh Boulevard, which opened in September 2004.

Built from the ground-up using about 50,000 cu. yards of concrete, the tunnel consists of two, 46-ft.-wide cells - one for northbound traffic and one for southbound traffic. The tunnel is 21.5 ft. high from pavement to ceiling.

The concrete walls are 3.5 ft. thick, and the ceiling is 5 ft. thick, including 660 29-ton precast concrete beams. The tunnel is designed to accommodate a 1.25-million-lb. aircraft touching down directly on top of it. (A typical 747 weighs about 800,000 lbs.)

The tunnel also features sensors to measure heat, carbon monoxide concentrations, lighting levels and pavement conditions. Twenty closed-circuit video cameras provide continuous monitoring inside the tunnel and are connected to the Missouri Department of Transportation's Traffic Information Center.

Twenty 70-horsepower jet fans hang from the ceiling and provide supplemental air circulation when needed. Light levels automatically adjust to light conditions outside of the tunnel.

SPK design coordinator Ahmad Hasan said by opting for precast concrete beams for the tunnel roof rather than pouring it in place, interior mechanical and electrical work was able to take place simultaneously rather than sequentially, which shaved about four months from the schedule.

Hasan said the tunnel Sachs Co. project was his biggest challenge of the expansion. The process began by creating a 110-page design criteria document to detail everything that needed to be included in the tunnel, which "helped the designers stay focused," he added.

More than 240 companies were involved in building the new section of Lindbergh. The prime contractor for the tunnel was McCarthy/Mosley II, A Joint Venture.

Coordinating 15 Projects

"The entire project has been on a tight schedule, beginning in July 2001 and finishing in April 2006," Pembleton said. "Fifteen different construction projects have to be coordinated, planned and mapped out. Completing the tunnel was one of the critical paths."

In fact, preparation began more than a decade before the groundbreaking. The new airfield is being built where there used to be 1,937 residential and 70 business parcels.

"We had to purchase the parcels and then regrade the area," SPK's Reitter said. "There was a big valley and ridge, and it's got to be flat. We had to move a number of roadways before we could begin doing the tunnel."

Pembleton said that to hasten the often-delayed utility relocation process, two people were dedicated solely to coordinating with utility companies to get water, gas, electric trunk lines and fiber-optic cables moved. More than $20 million was spent on relocating utilities.

Overall, the expansion has involved 550 companies, which includes more than 100 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms and more than 14,000 people. Primavera is the software used for scheduling.

"As a construction manager, the complexity of the interaction of the various contracts was the biggest challenge," Pembleton said. "If one doesn't go totally as planned, it can cascade into affecting others. We've done some soul-searching and at times decided to spend a little money to stay on schedule."

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