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The Niagara Falls Reserve Airbase

The Niagara Falls Reserve Airbase is home to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 914th Airlift Wing, as well as units of the Air National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, and a Military Entrance Processing Station that serves all five branches of the U.S. military.  When Surianello General Concrete Contractor Inc. began a complete reconstruction project on one of the taxiways, it was immediately apparent the project would require close coordination among the owner, contractor, and subcontractor so that the construction did not interfere with the important missions of the base. It was particularly important  to accommodate fire and emergency response teams.   As such, the project required at least one lane to be open at all times.  This required the preparatory work to be completed in stages to ensure certain portions of the taxiway were open to base operations at all times. The paving operation also needed to follow this staging pattern, and work needed to be completed quickly, safely, and efficiently.  The taxiway was a complete reconstruction involving removal, excavation, new under drain, new sub-base, and the installation of new heavily reinforced concrete pavement, 12,000 CY in all.

Surianello invested significant time to devise a plan to complete the project on schedule.   The plan had to address access, including the required non-agitating concrete delivery vehicles and other construction equipment.   There was only a short window of opportunity to unload the concrete mixture, and with every movement, coordination with the base security forces was required to ensure deliveries were not slowed by time-consuming inspections.

Completing the project required constant communications.  Surianello’s paving schedule was communicated to base security and operation forces well in advance, and base personnel then sent out notifications to all the divisions to ensure people were informed of the schedule and potential impacts.   When construction operations were in proximity to the active runway, constant communications needed to be maintained with the air traffic controller in the tower.  Traffic on the taxiway was restricted to base personnel, as well as Surianello’s construction equipment, support vehicles, and personnel.  (On the grade, daily toolbox discussions also helped keep construction personnel well informed of safety and security requirements.)

Looking back at the construction of the original taxiway, it was completed during the 1950’s (using fixed-form paving), and the pavement since experienced joint failure.  The specifications called for the new pavement to match the existing pavement, but it was soon determined and reported to the base engineers that matching the existing pavement would not produce the desired surface characteristics.

The project specifications required the use of a profilograph for smoothness measurement, but after inspecting the existing conditions, the contractor informed the base engineers that it was not possible to match the existing pavement and still meet the smoothness requirements.  After all the information was presented, the base engineers waived the profilograph smoothness requirement in favor of matching the existing pavement.

The contractor used averaging skis on the paver helped to remove the variations that were present in the existing pavement, and to create a significantly smoother surface than the existing pavement that was to be matched.   Even though profilograph traces were not required, the Surianello team still profiled the new pavement after installation was complete.  The results indicated a significant increase in the smoothness of the pavement, which met or exceeded the ¼ in. in 10 ft. straight edge specifications.

In spite of delays, complexities, safety and security considerations, and the requirement to keep one lane of the taxiway open, the project was completed under budget and within schedule.   The end result is a quality taxiway that will serve this vital military base for many years.