Runway Overhaul

DOVER — As a working excavator rumbled along a few hundred yards away, the ceremonial groundbreaking of a $98.3 million runway repair project unfolded early Monday afternoon at Dover Air Force Base.

Since Feb. 2, civilian contractors have broken up concrete and asphalt at the north and south ends of runway 01-19 in the first phase of a project scheduled for completion in June 2016, if not sooner.

Also ongoing is the replacement of a gas line that fuels aircraft during their air base stops.

A C-17 passes over construction equipment  during the groundbreaking ceremony for runway at Dover Air Force Base Monday.  (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

A C-17 passes over construction equipment during the groundbreaking ceremony for runway at Dover Air Force Base Monday. (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Lt. Col. Scott Bryant, the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, said progress has been acceptable so far despite 15 days that were impacted by freezing cold temperatures and snowfalls this winter.

Spring arrived last Friday, though, and better days are ahead for the construction project.

“The work we’ve completed has been good, though we’d like to be further ahead than we are,” Lt. Col. Bryant said.

“Wanting to be further ahead is going to be the case throughout the project.”

The project’s initial work was a coordination of efforts between “several trades” including electrical, demolition, fuel, pavement and concrete, and a lot of site work, Lt. Col. Bryant said.

“There’s been a lot of movement with a lot of teams coming together,” he said.

The second phase of the project will include taking down the center part of the runway, which will restrict it to 6,000-foot aircraft approaches from June 18 to Dec. 23.

With one runway fully usable, Lt. Col. Derek Salmi, commander of the Operations Support Squadron, has overseen the coordination of daily functions of the Department of Defense’s largest aerial port.

U.S. Rep. John Carney, Senators Chris Coons and Thomas Carper join Dover AFB commanders and construction company supervisors Monday in a groundbreaking ceremony for replacement of the main runway. (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

U.S. Rep. John Carney, Senators Chris Coons and Thomas Carper join Dover AFB commanders and construction company supervisors Monday in a groundbreaking ceremony for replacement of the main runway. (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Serving as the bridge between aircraft and construction team, Lt. Col. Salmi said, “We think it’s going great. It’s a very complex project with a lot of moving parts.”

Much to the delight of Col. Michael Grismer, the 436th Airlift Wing Commander, Delaware’s congressional delegation of Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Rep. John Carney, all Democrats, attended Monday’s ceremony that ran approximately 20 minutes on a sunny, but chilly, afternoon.

“What state can get their two senators and one representative out (to this groundbreaking)?” Col. Grismer asked rhetorically to open a few short remarks.

“No state but the great state of Delaware.”

When completed, the runway project improvements are expected to last 75 to 100 years with proper maintenance.

Sen. Coons — a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee — lauded the project for enhancing a key part of the nation’s strategic airlift capacity, along with jobs and money pumped into the local economy during the renovations.

“It’s an enormous project, one that is much needed and vital to the capability of Dover Air Force Base,” he said.

Calling the Dover site “the best Air Force base in the world,” Sen. Carper said money spent on it was well placed for its contribution to airlifting medical assistance, equipment and people to support war efforts, and ability to assist in helping during a humanitarian crisis.

“The folks that are the winners are the taxpayers of this country,” Sen. Carper said. “Dover Air Force Base has been a great bargain.”

The north-south runway, in service since the 1940s, was closed in February to undergo renovations to rebuild the aging asphalt and concrete, a concern since 2005. Completion of the runway repair is scheduled for June 2016. (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The north-south runway, in service since the 1940s, was closed in February to undergo renovations to rebuild the aging asphalt and concrete, a concern since 2005. Completion of the runway repair is scheduled for June 2016. (Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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