Flaws found in paving at Paine Field

EVERETT — More than a mile of freshly laid pavement on the main runway at Snohomish County’s Paine Field needs to be redone because it didn’t set properly, county and federal officials said.

A contractor in August did the work on the $11 million project funded by federal stimulus money.

Weather may have fouled the project, but nobody’s quite sure what went wrong.

Recent tests turned up problems with a 5,700-foot-long section in the middle of the runway, said Christopher Schwarzen, County Executive Aaron Reardon’s spokesman. That’s more than half the runway’s length.

“It’s not as stable as the airport needs,” Schwarzen said. “There will be additional costs. We’re still working to determine what caused the problem.”

How much the repairs will cost and who will pay remain to be determined. Airport staff are working with the contractor, Granite Construction Co., to answer those questions.

Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction is one of the country’s largest heavy civil contractors and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company is insured and provided a bond, as required by contract, Schwarzen said.

The company hopes to finish work by the end of next week.

“We’ll be working tonight,” Granite spokeswoman Jacqueline Fourchy said Thursday. “Our focus is really to get the runway functional for our client and for the public.”

Airport staff plan to extend a previously scheduled runway closure by three days to give workers time to finish the repairs. The shutdown began at 9 p.m. Thursday, a day earlier than originally planned. It is scheduled to run through 8 a.m. Sept. 11.

The airport told the Federal Aviation Administration that too much moisture in the air, likely from fog or humidity, prevented the pavement from setting correctly, said Mike Fergus, a regional spokesman for the FAA.

“There was no negligence in it,” Fergus said.

Paine Field’s main runway is used by Boeing Co.’s jets and aircraft refurbished by Aviation Technical Services. It is the only one of the airport’s three runways large planes can use.

The airport is trying to minimize the impact for clients. It currently is negotiating with two airlines, Allegiant Air, of Las Vegas, and Horizon Air, of Seattle, who hope to begin regular passenger service from the airport.

Although the Boeing Co. reported some disruption from the paving, it hasn’t noticed any damage to its aircraft, said Peter Conte, a company spokesman. No aircraft deliveries have been delayed, he added.

A spokesman for Aviation Technical Services, the airport’s largest tenant after Boeing, expected no long-term impacts from the extra work.

“We have a pretty good relationship with the airport,” said Jeff Salee, ATS’s public relations manager. “With that relationship, we’re able to work through issues fairly diligently.”

John Sessions, a Seattle attorney who keeps a vintage aircraft collection at Paine Field, looked forward to a improved runway.

“The airport is doing a fabulous job of capital construction this summer,” he said in a statement.

The federal stimulus money paid for resurfacing most of the airport’s main runway and the south portion of a parallel taxiway. Work started this summer.

Another $7.9 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant money is paying to resurface the north part of the taxiway.

The problems involve one major phase of construction. Another part of the project — putting grooves in the runway and installing center runway lights — is underway and is expected to be done in November, Schwarzen said. Paving in other areas also is moving ahead as scheduled.

The runway was last repaved in 1996. The taxiway was last repaved 25 years ago.

Herald business reporter Michelle Dunlop contributed to this report.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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