BY JEFF YAPALATER
The $355 million runway construction at JFK has begun. After years of pre-planning, spirited debates over timing and impact on the airlines and FAA compliance issues, the shovel hit the dirt on April 1.
One of four major runways at JFK Airport, 13L 31R is completely shut down until November as crews replace worn, cracked and the aging runway.
Aviation Director Huntley Lawrence, said the construction was necessary now to maintain safety and longevity as well fit into the overall JFK Airport redevelopment. He said “ this way this runway being constructed will last 40 years due to the type of material being used, so it’s better to get it all done now.”
Prior to the planned construction there were many meetings held at the airport with airlines, terminal operators, the FAA and stakeholders. Many expressed concerns over the long time closure and possible negative impact during the summer months when severe thunderstorms could negatively impact flights. Airlines management expressed thoughts that the loss of one major runway could hamper operations causing passenger delays with one less runway.
However, through the efforts of collaboration, the Port heard the concerns and was able to tweak the timeframe, scope and to maintain daily communications to mitigate problems working with the airport stakeholders and FAA.
Said Rick Cotton, executive director of The Port Authority, ‘“With collaboration from our airline partners and the Federal Aviation Administration, the next eight months of continuous work on Runway 13L-31R will pay huge dividends in terms of operational safety and efficiency over the coming decades at JFK, as it represents the final phase of upgrading the four operational runways at the airport.”
JFK terminal operators expressed support for the project. “The Port Authority has continued to work extensively with the airport community in preparation for the runway reconstruction, which will directly impact all terminals and airlines. All JFK terminal operators understand the importance of this critical runway work.”
Evidence of the commitment to expedition the project could be seen as Over 50 work related vehicles were seen at the airport on the second day of construction.
“The Port Authority recognizes the need for infrastructure upgrades to improve the customer’s flight experience and to better maintain and operate our facilities and assets,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “This project is critical to achieve those goals, and we are working to ensure minimal impact while the reconstruction is under way.”