Aircraft flying in and out of Huntsville International Airport enjoyed the option of a second runway just in time for the 2021 holiday travel rush. Returned to service after a year-long extensive renovation, the18R/36L “West” Runway reopened to air traffic late November 2021.
“We were thrilled to reopen the west runway just as traffic began ramping up here at Huntsville International for the holiday season,” said Rick Tucker, then Port of Huntsville CEO. “Even with the onset of the pandemic, we were working hard to prepare for the inevitable growth in passenger and cargo flights mirroring our community’s rapid economic development. It’s a matter of pride for us to be able to offer superior facilities and capabilities to our customers rivaling much larger airports yet with the convenience and personal touch we can offer as a smaller market.”
The multimillion-dollar project provided much-needed resurfacing of the 25-year-old west runway pavement and replacement of decades-old incandescent lighting.
“The new surface will extend the useful life of the runway for an additional 20 to 25 years,” Tucker said, “Converting from incandescent to LED lighting will reduce energy consumption and save electricity costs.”
The scope of work for the project included a four-inch mill and overlay of full-strength runway and connector taxiway asphalt pavement and a two-inch mill and overlay of the inner 27 feet of runway shoulder. Both blast pads, connector taxiway shoulders, and the outer runway shoulders received an asphalt rejuvenation treatment to extend the useful life of the pavements, originally constructed in 2012. The rehabilitation included complete replacement of the incandescent runway edge lights, centerline lights and touchdown zone lights on the runway. In total, 759 lights were replaced the LED fixtures, and almost 50 miles of new wiring was replaced.
Runway 18R/36L is 12,600 feet in length and is the second longest in the Southeast U.S. It runs parallel to County Line Road on the west side of Huntsville International Airport and originally opened in 1967 for operation. Currently, 18R/36L is able to accommodate aircraft up to Aircraft Design Group VI which includes Boeing 747-8F and Airbus A-380 aircraft.
Wiregrass Construction Company’s North Area Division Office in Huntsville served as the prime contractor for the project and provided paving services. Subcontractors also contributing to the project included Rutherford Contracting Inc. (airfield and electrical); Hasco Inc. (rejuvenation and pavement markings); Cardinal International (asphalt grooving); and Garver Engineering – Huntsville (design services.) The majority of consultants and contractors on the runway repaving project are local to North Alabama.
The design, construction and construction administration for this project were funded by a $23.5 million grant received by the Port of Huntsville through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, which sets design standards for airport infrastructure and aircraft compatibility. The FAA, under DOT, also oversees the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant distribution program.