The Calgary Airport Authority says the long-awaited overhaul of YYC’s west runway is expected to take flight later this year, and that PCL Construction will be the project’s construction manager.
“Given PCL’s depth of experience, the authority is confident in their ability to help contribute to this historic project in a safe and efficient manner,” said Chris Miles, Chief Operating Officer for the Calgary Airport Authority, in a news release issued Wednesday.
The Calgary International Airport’s west runway (17R-35L) was built in phases starting in 1939. Since its original construction, the surface has been restored multiple times to prolong the runway’s life.
But studies have indicated the west runway is approaching the end of its useful lifecycle, according to a Transport Canada information page, and that full-depth structural and electrical rehabilitation is necessary.
The West Runway Rehabilitation project will include replacing the runway’s existing pavement structure and upgrading its electrical and drainage systems, while also improving supporting infrastructure, such as taxiways and aircraft movement surfaces.
The project – first announced in 2021 – also includes installing new Runway End Safety Areas, as required by Transport Canada.
In Wednesday’s news release, the airport authority said the project will create 300 temporary jobs.
“The West Runway Rehabilitation is a keystone project for YYC and will play a pivotal role in the long-term success of our airport and the greater Calgary region,” Miles said.
In their 2022 annual report, the airport authority referenced the project as a “critical priority” for YYC, stating that once complete, the refurbished west runway will “reinforce airport safety and capacity for passengers, air crews, and airport workers for decades to come.”
Design work was completed in December 2022, according to the report, followed by construction phasing analysis and engagement with stakeholders throughout 2023.
While construction was originally slated to begin last April, a presentation to the Calgary Airport Authority Community Consultative Committee last March stated the groundbreaking was postponed in order for YYC to seek more government funding.
The federal government contributed a $57.5-million grant toward the project in 2021. However, the airport authority stated that operating and capital costs have gone up since the initial $115-million budget was determined, and as a result, is seeking additional government dollars.
“Due to the recent cost escalations, the project will now require additional funds to remove the existing pavement structure, recycle all materials, rehabilitate the runway structure, install new Runway End Safety Areas, and upgrade the runway electrical system,” the report stated.
The YYC website now describes the West Runway Rehabilitation as an approximately $200-million project.
Representatives from the airport authority and PCL Construction were not immediately available for comment.
Rick Erickson, an independent aviation consultant based in Calgary, said maintenance of runways is “essential to the wellbeing” of the Calgary International Airport.
“Runways are the primary function of what an airport has to offer,” he said.
“So obviously, the airport authority, who is the manager of the airport, takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the facility, make sure it’s safe and make sure it can continue to function.”
Construction is anticipated to break ground this spring and wrap up in 2025, according to the airport authority’s 2022 report.
Erickson said the west runway is typically used for corporate flight activity, rather than commercial departures, which means the construction period likely won’t impact the public.
On the YYC website, the airport authority says there will be increased use of the Crosswind Runway during the construction period, which places aircraft over parts of northwest Calgary and southeast of the airport. Those communities “may experience a higher volume of traffic overhead” when construction gets underway.