Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport Runway Safety Area Improvements
The goal of the project was to bring the runway safety areas into compliance with the Congressional mandated requirement. The solution of the project included extending both runways to remove the “decoupling” of the runway ends. The extension of the primary Runway 14-32 required the relocation of a creek and the installation of the creek into an 800’ conspan concrete drainage structure to maintain safety area criteria. The parallel taxiway to the primary runway also had to be extended to the new runway end. In order to maintain and not disrupt commercial aircraft operations the secondary runway needed to be equipped with runway edge lights and a partial parallel taxiway was designed and constructed to keep the secondary runway operational for the commercial aircraft. The project had several environmentally sensitive areas and wildlife to work around. In addition, ponds on recently purchased property needed to be removed as open water is a wildlife attractant and are not allowed near the airport environment.
There were many unusual safety requirements for this project because it required working in an active Airport. First, due to funding and permitting issues, and because there was a hard finish date, the project was condensed from a 9 month project to a 6 month project. This required a significant amount of overtime, and additional shifts. Ensuring that the crew took sufficient breaks to remain sharp took constant vigilance by the onsite supervisors.
Additionally, because the Airport remained active, access to the site was restricted. Workers were required to be badged or escorted onsite by badged personnel. These badges allowed specific employees access at specific gates at the Airport, thus requiring a significant amount of management and planning to ensure enough badged personnel were working onsite and had access to the correct gates for the work areas.
Since the Airport remained active, delineation had to be setup to mark the limits of the Runway Safety Area or RSA. This area could only be accessed one of two ways. First, with specific permission from the Air Traffic Control Tower, and then only under constant radio contact with the Tower. Second, during specific times at night, after shutting down the entire airport. Closing down the entire Airport required no less than 7 days’ notice and required tight scheduling to ensure the runways were opened without fail at the promised times. This again required a significant amount of management and planning to ensure worker and airport operational safety and eliminate flight delays.
The project was a safety success as more than 46,000 manhours were worked on the project, day and night, without a lost time incident.
The design maximized aircraft operational efficiencies. A combination of marking, signing and geometric configurations of the pavements allowed for maximized enhanced safety for the intersections of both runways, a parallel taxiway to the primary runway and a connector taxiway to the secondary runway.
Also, the realigned stream channel was extensively planted with native species to reestablish existing habitat. Careful selection of plant species and hydrologic design enabled this habitat to be recreated in a way that will reduce the attractiveness of areas near the runway to birds and other potential wildlife hazards to aircraft. The creek design will concentrate the limited low-water flows into a narrow central channel to preserve continuity for aquatic species.
This project was awarded the California Transportation Foundations’ “Aviation Project of the Year”