Crews liken the landscape to that of Egypt.
Giant, pyramid-shaped mounds of crushed concrete dot the airfield next to the Indianapolis International Airport in preparation for a massive project that drew large fanfare from officials Wednesday. A fence along Col. H. Weir Memorial Drive, being decorated now with a locally commissioned mural, blocks most of the view for passengers on their way to the airport.
"This right behind us is one of the largest, if not the largest, projects in the entire state, and nobody knows about it," Executive Director Mario Rodriguez told an enthusiastic crowd of airport executives and elected officials.
The Indianapolis Airport Authority is reconstructing one of its two main runways top to bottom, a $190 million project that is expected to span three construction seasons and wrap up in late 2024.
The mounds of concrete are the remains of the former runway, which, at about 30 years old, outlived its typical lifespan of about 20 years, senior planning and development director Jarod Klaas said.
That concrete will be reused in one of the sub-base layers of the new runway. With a thicker layer of new concrete on top, the runway is expected to have a lifespan of about 40 years, officials said.
The 22-inch top concrete layer will also contain waste carbon dioxide, which officials said makes the airport the first in the country to use carbon-capture technology in a runway. The amount of carbon being sequestered is the equivalent of planting 1.2 million trees, Klaas said.
The pandemic-influenced explosion in online shopping also prompted the Indianapolis Airport Authority to look at this runway, which is used by both commercial airlines and FedEx flights. Rodriguez told IndyStar in the fall that the IAA wanted to reconstruct it in anticipation of ever-increasing demand. And, he said Wednesday, aircraft continue to get bigger and heavier, placing more demand on the concrete.
In the fall, the airport received a large chunk of federal grant money ― $56 million, the largest single grant the airport has ever received ― that it's putting toward the runway project. The rest will come from airport capital improvement funds, which are funded by the fees airlines pay to fly in and out of the airport, Klaas said.
The federal money came from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, which doles out money each year to support sustainable airport infrastructure.
That $56 million was also the largest portion of the national pie.
The airport has two primary runways, plus a crosswind runway. During the winter months of November through March, the completed portion of the runway under construction will be put back into temporary operation.
Rodriguez said being down one runway won't mean delays for passengers on the tarmac. Doing the project now, while the airport is not at full capacity, should safeguard against delays years into the future, when the airport fills up with more airlines and traffic, he said.
"You'll never notice. Remember, we're not LaGuardia," he said. "We have enough capacity with one runway to handle everybody."
Contact IndyStar transportation reporter Kayla Dwyer at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @kayla_dwyer17.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indianapolis airport undertaking 3-year project to rebuild a runway