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Runway replacement cost estimates double

$3.2-million estimate balloons to approximately $6 million due to increased scope of work

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

City councillors may have gotten a little bit of sticker shock this past week, and it wasn’t from a Black Friday deal.

In a recently released report that hit the council chamber, councillors learned that the replacement of the Oshawa Executive Airport’s main runway (Runway 12/30) was going to come with a price of $6 million – nearly double the $3.2 million forecasted in the Airport Business Plan.

With the expected closure of the Buttonville Airport in the fall of 2017, the replacement of Oshawa’s aging runway has become a priority, as it must get ready to accommodate the increased airplane traffic. Original estimates predict that when the Buttonville airport does close, it is projected that aircraft movements in Oshawa will increase to over 100,000 annually – more than double 2014’s numbers of 51,758 movements.

The original plan was to replace the entire runway, as well as the related electrical and lighting infrastructure, which is nearing the end of its life cycle, along with the creation of extended, grassed runway end safety areas (RESA). Now, it is also being recommended that portions of two taxiways also be replaced during the construction to avoid future disturbances on the main runway, as well as paving the extended RESA portions instead of the original grassed recommendation. Paving the RESAs, while not used for landings and takeoffs, will increase safety in the event that a plane overruns the runway.

A buffer berm on the Jane Street side of the airport is also being created from the excess fill material from the runway excavation, which will see the pavement and granular beneath fully removed.

The city report states that the increased costs are primarily due to the excavation, the placement of the granular base and the removal of the existing sub-drains to be replaced with new ones along the runway edge.

The construction, set to begin in August or early September, will take approximately four weeks and will see the airport closed for that stretch. For that reason, construction is slated to be expedited.

“In order to minimize the impact of the closure to the airport businesses and tenants to the greatest possible extent, the work will take place on a 24-hour basis throughout the project,” the city report reads.

However, the busy, month-long construction cycle drew the ire of one resident who came out to council’s previous committee meeting to talk about the disturbance this 24/7 schedule would have on nearby residents.

For Mayor John Henry, the city is in a tough position.

“We want to do it as quickly as possible, we want to do it as safely as possible, but at the same time we want to be respectful of the neighbours that live around the airport.”

But he says that now is the right time to do the work with the pending closure to the Buttonville airport.

“If you’re going to be a smart community, get it done right and get it done fast,” said Councillor John Aker.

According to Steve Wilcox, the airport’s manager, the project is a massive undertaking, and in order to mitigate the impact on local businesses that rely on the airport, as well as employees who will not be working for an entire month, the work must be completed as quickly as possible.

“This is a major dig,” he says. “It’s like building it all over again.”

This is definitely the case in some instances, as some of the original pavement still exists on the runway from when it was originally installed in the 1940s, and aside from basic repairs, nearby residents have not had to deal with the burden of construction noise in almost 75 years. Once it’s completed, Wilcox says he hopes the same can be said for the next 75 years which, in the grand scheme of things, he says isn’t too much to ask.

“I’m thinking four weeks in the 150 years is a pretty minimal impact,” he said.

The cost increase has been referred to the 2017 budget for deliberation.