Construction on the long-awaited complete overhaul of Calgary Airport’s aging west runway is scheduled to begin in April. Since the project was halted due to the pandemic, costs have ballooned by more than $80 million.
Laura Samson, director of infrastructure for the Calgary Airport Authority, said Runway 17R-35L will close in April and preparatory work will begin soon after.
“We have been able to do some initial work over the past two years, doing some of the planning and design,” she said. “Runway closure will begin in April of this year, initially with some preparatory work, and then full construction will begin throughout the spring, summer and fall of this year.”
Project deemed a ‘top priority’ for Calgary Airport
The West Runway Renovation Project was first announced in 2021. The project was deemed necessary after an airport-led survey showed damage to the runway. — built in 1939 — It was nearing the end of its useful life.
The overhaul includes complete improvements to the structure, electrical and drainage systems. The project will replace the runway’s pavement structure and upgrade supporting infrastructure such as taxiways and aircraft travel surfaces.
A new termination safety area will also be installed in accordance with Transport Canada requirements.
Airport authorities announced last month that PCL Construction would lead the construction work.
Airport officials have said the project is a top priority, and Samson said it has been “a long time coming.”
“This asset is over 80 years old, first being put into operation in 1939, so we have maintained it to a certain standard that enables space operations, but no asset lasts forever. I understand that,” Samson said. “We are starting to see traffic (recovery) and growth in the aviation industry, and now is the right time to rebuild post-COVID-19.”
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“We’ve seen a significant increase in costs.”
Since it was announced in 2021, the project has experienced rising costs and a year of delays.
The project’s original budget was $115 million. Later, its price rose to $200 million.
Samson said a more comprehensive scope, including wider shoulders, improved drainage systems and upgraded runway approach categories, contributed to the higher costs.
Inflation and current market conditions are also leading to the need for a larger budget, he added.
“We have seen significant cost increases for building materials, resources and fuel over the past few years since being exempted in 2019,” Samson said.
YYC continues to seek government funding
As the budget increased, the project also faced delays.
Construction was originally scheduled to begin last April, but the airport authority delayed work to seek additional government funding and finalize design details, Samson said.
The federal government announced in August 2021 that it would commit $57.5 million to the project, with funding from the Airports Critical Infrastructure Program.
Work is expected to begin in the coming months, and YYC will continue to advocate for additional government funding for the project at both the federal and local levels, Samson said.
YYC will continue to maintain the two runways for the duration of the project, which is expected to be completed in 2025.
“We will not see any flight reductions during construction; we will simply reconfigure some of the ways the facility will operate with full buy-in from our partner airlines,” Samson said.