A grate that leads to a pipe running under part of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport main runway may be part of a potential cause of two growing depressions in the pavement. The airport's controlling authority is in the process of hiring an engineering firm to evaluate and fix the problem.
MANATEE -- Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials say they will spend several hundred thousand dollars to fix two small runway divots and remove an extra taxiway to ensure the future safety of passengers and aircraft.
Correcting the issues now will eliminate them before increasing aircraft traffic and time worsen them. The taxiway removal will also bring the airport into compliance with a Federal Aviation Administration survey that has identified runway "hot spots" nationwide that could lead to ground collisions.
Members of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority board of commissioners voiced particular concern at their regular March meeting on Tuesday over what SRQ's engineer termed "potholes." The holes have been slowly deepening on part of a 1,300-foot extension to SRQ's main runway. That extension was built 16 years ago.
As deep as 2 inches, the depressions are in a section of the pavement that only sees aircraft at takeoff. The authority intends to hire an engineering firm to find the causes of the potholes and to recommend a fix.
"Right now, we don't know what the cause is," said Kent Bontrager, SRQ's vice president of engineering. "Basically, you have these potholes that are forming out there."
First discovered four years after the runway extension was built in 2000, the holes have been monitored since. Carlos Beruff, the authority's board chairman, was incredulous concerning the length of time the holes have persisted.
"So this has been going on for 12 years." Beruff said. "What took us so long to address the problem until now?"
Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo, SRQ's CEO, said the depressions presently feel like "a bump in the road" from an airline passenger's perspective. Fixing them now is intended to prevent them from becoming a bigger problem. He said a repair will likely cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
Two firms, EG Solutions and Kimley-Horn & Associates, presented their theories about why the pavement sunk over the past dozen years. They are competing to win a contract to find the cause and design repairs.
Scott Brady, a senior consultant with Lakewood Ranch-based EG, pointed to several potential causes, including underground erosion, runway construction issues, spongy soils or even a fracture in underlying earth. Solutions could be a simple as putting down new pavement or replacing an underground pipe, or as complex as replacing sections of pavement and soils.
Kimley-Horn, which designed the runway extension, traded on an extensive portfolio of work it had done at SRQ's airfield previously. Tom O'Donnell, a project manager with the company's West Palm Beach office, said his firm will make sure the airport has no down time while repairs are in progress.
The authority board voted 4-1 to negotiate the work with EG Solutions. Should those negotiations be completed to the satisfaction of airport staff, the board would at a later meeting vote on whether to sign a contract with the firm.
On the taxiway issue, the commissioners again heard from Kimley-Horn, as well as American Infrastructure Development of Tampa.
Both recommended that a short piece of taxiway, designated A5, be removed from the airfield. The FAA's survey determined that the taxiway, which sits at a 45-degree angle to two other taxiways, could confuse pilots and cause them to turn aircraft into other ground aircraft traffic, risking a collision.
Mohsen Mohammadi, a project manager with American Infrastructure, told the airport board that his firm has done similar work at airports in Venice and St. Petersburg. Authority members seemed to like what they heard. They chose the company on a 4-1 vote as the top choice for airport staff to negotiate a contract to design and administer a remedy.
Piccolo said he expects the cost of the work to be on a similar scale as that for fixing the runway depressions.
Construction schedules and pricing for the projects will be determined by the firms chosen to do the work.
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