2017-08-26 / Top News

Airport To Close for Resurfacing

By Jacob A. Ball


The runway at the Mackinac Island Airport, shown here with the airport office, will be closed from September 5 through 15 for repairs, resurfacing, and to correct premature weathering. The runway at the Mackinac Island Airport, shown here with the airport office, will be closed from September 5 through 15 for repairs, resurfacing, and to correct premature weathering. The Mackinac Island Airport runway will be closed for five days in September for repairs and resurfacing to correct premature weathering of the paved runway.

Repairs tentatively are scheduled for Tuesday, September 5, to Friday, September 15. The final dates will be determined based on weather, but the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which manages the airport, hopes to complete the project in consecutive days without any weather interruptions.

The runway’s top layer, called the porous friction coarse, started eroding about a year after it was installed in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, but should have lasted at least 10 years. Nate Gambill, an assistant attorney general who has been overseeing the matter, said the premature erosion likely occurred because the runway was installed in poor weather conditions. During the repairs, he said, it is vital to avoid the same circumstances.

Until the bad surface has been replaced, Mackinac Island Airport staff will continue to maintain the runway by sweeping away excess gravel that has chipped off the surface. Airport Manager Shane Paeth said that as the porous friction coarse material has been degrading, little bits of dust and gravel come loose.

On three occasions since he took over as manager this spring, Mr. Paeth said the airport staff has had to clear debris from the runway. A compact tractor with an attached sweeper that agitates the surface is used first, followed by a blower to push it away.

The sweeping is necessary to ensure airplanes don’t slide off the runway while landing. Mr. Paeth said no pilots have expressed concerns about the safety of the runway. He said he wants to get it fixed before large, dangerous potholes open up.

The Mackinac Island State Park Commission negotiated a settlement with the original contractor for the runway installation, which was approved at a park commission meeting September 23, 2016. This engineering firm, AECOM, formerly URS, will give the park commission $250,000 to pay for resurfacing of the runway.

The settlement will cover most of the cost. Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter said some additional costs are anticipated for the repairs. These costs will be covered by the State of Michigan through the Airport Improvement Program, managed by the Department of Transportation.

Bacco Construction Company of Iron Mountain was awarded the contract for the repairs by West Michigan-based engineering firm Prein and Newhof.

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