ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – Runway repairs at St. George Regional Airport are now 35 percent complete as of Wednesday morning.
The airport closed to all flights May 29 and will remain closed until Sept. 26 as construction crews from St. George-based JP Excavating repair and repave the runway, as a result of water entering the soil underneath it and creating cracks and bumps on the pavement.
For more than six weeks, JP Excavating contractors have worked 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
“Any given day, we’re working about 450 man hours within JP Excavating alone,” said project manager Scot Pectol.
At least 10 types of expansive clay underneath the runway expanded at different rates with moisture, causing the runway to ripple.
Construction crews have been digging 17 feet deep, causing enough geological pressure to ensure the clay won’t expand more than an inch, according to St. George Regional Airport manager Rich Stehmeier.
“We’re hoping the runway will last twenty, thirty, even forty years,” said Stehmeier.
Contractors are mixing and moisturizing the clay, so it’s ready to be put back in the ground, which Stehmeier said is one of the project’s biggest challenges and slowest moving parts. Crews are also creating a 5-foot clay barrier and installing underdrains to keep moisture out.
“Any water that goes through the soil will hit the drain rock, go against the impermeable layer, run out to the drains, and go off the airflow,” said Stehmeier.
The neutralized clay seal is complete 3,600 feet down the runway, and crews have installed 210,000 square yards of geomembrane liner as well as 2.85 miles of under drains as of Wednesday morning.
“We have testers testing the testers to make sure that everything is what it’s supposed to be,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “I’m confident that’s what we’re going to have once it’s completed.”
Pectol said that while the project is complicated and difficult, crews are satisfied with their work so far.
“I’m proud that I can be a part of a project I know that I’ll be able to enjoy for the rest of my life and be able to tell my kids, ‘Hey, you’re Dad worked on that!'” Pectol added.
The project is expected to last about 120 days. The grand reopening is scheduled for September 26th.