Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) is finally going to get the big runway makeover it’s been seeking for a long time – but it’s coming at a cost, nearly $21 million.

At a Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority voted unanimously to spend $20.9 million on the job that was, for all of 2018 … well, sitting on the runway.

The project, officially known as the “Runway 5R/23L Rehabilitation Project,” will provide what airport officials say are much needed repairs and renovations to PTIA’s main runway.  The airport has three runways: the main one, 5R/23L, which is 10,000 feet long; the cross-wind runway, 14/32, which is 6,380 feet, and runway 5L/23R – also known as the Parallel Runway – which is 9,000 feet long.

While a runway looks to many like a relatively simple flat slab of asphalt, there are numerous design elements and other considerations that go into runway construction and renovation. Those elements, such as signals, lighting and specific surface requirements, add a level of complexity to runway renovation as compared to an ordinary stretch of highway.

At the meeting, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker spoke briefly on the history of the project and noted that a previous request for bids on the major runway reconstruction job failed to pull in an acceptable offer.  At first the airport got zero bidders, and eventually it got one bid, that Baker called “incredibly high.”

In late 2018, the Airport Authority put the project out for bids again, which got the winning $20.9-million bid from APAC-Atlantic Inc. of Greensboro.

“Obviously you all know the story,” Baker told the members of the authority. “The bids were still a bit higher than the engineer’s estimate, but much closer than they have been at other times when we bid previously.”

He said the project and the contract had been discussed with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and it is eligible for 90 percent federal funding.

Baker said PTIA staff was recommending the board move forward with the project despite the higher than desired price tag because there’s currently a “very tight contracting market.”

Koury Corp. President Steve Showfety, who is chairman of the Airport Authority, said he was familiar with another airport that also “had to go back to the drawing board” on a runway project due to high costs.

In a related item, the Airport Authority also voted to hire Michael Baker Engineering, the company that did the design work on the project, to oversee APAC-Atlantic.  The engineering firm will “make sure the contractor is building it the way the plans say.”

That includes things like reviewing drawings and helping interpret the design.  The contract with Michael Baker adds an estimated $135,000 to the $20.9 million price tag.