Text and Photos By Ron Marsico, Assistant Director, Media Relations

Concrete.  Lots of concrete.  Hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete, actually.

One of John F. Kennedy International Airport’s main departure runways, 4 Left-22 Right, is getting a major overhaul and facelift of sorts – going from black asphalt to off-white concrete.  But it’s more than just a cosmetic change.  Asphalt runway pavements are flexible and tend to last about 10 years before they need to be rehabilitated due to the unrelenting punishment from continual heavy aircraft landings.  Concrete runways are much durable and thus are expected to last for decades.

“Instead of a 10-year life (span), we won’t be doing this for hopefully 40 years again,’’ said John Selden, JFK’s deputy general manager, addressing the project at a recent public meeting on Long Island.

So, how exactly do you quantify how much concrete is needed for the work on the runway and related taxiways?

Well, it totals 220,000 cubic yards of concrete, to be exact.  Unless you’re intimately involved with construction work, of course, 220,000 cubic yards is hard to grasp – other than it sounds like a lot of concrete.

Well, it is.

Since each cubic yard weighs 4,050 pounds, that translates to 89.1 million pounds or 445,000 tons.  Ok great, you say, but those impressive numbers are still hard to quantify.

Then how about this:  It’s enough concrete to fill the surface of every National Football League stadium to a depth of three feet, according to Guy Zummo, the Port Authority’s manager for the project.  That simple factoid should give you a better idea of just how much concrete is involved.

To keep things moving, the Port Authority mandated creation of an on-airport concrete plant – with a backup facility – to hasten the delivery of material and lessen delays if something malfunctioned at the primary plant.

While the concrete is critical, it is not the only important part of this project.

Runway 4 Left-22 Right – which runs nearly two miles on a mostly north-south trajectory stretching from near Rockaway Boulevard down onto a peninsula jutting into Jamaica Bay – is out-of-service for five months for safety enhancements, widening, addition of high-speed taxiways, along with the rehabilitation. Project completion on the runway, which also handles its share of arriving flights in addition to all the takeoffs, is set for Sept. 21.

Seeking to meet the FAA’s enhanced requirement that there now be 1,000 feet of extra pavement at both ends of each runway to provide longer safety zones in case planes overshoot the airstrip, the Port Authority is making sure the mandate is met by the year-end federal deadline.  The runway also is being widened from 150 feet to 200 feet, so it will meet the width requirement for the world’s largest commercial planes with mammoth wingspans, such as the Airbus 380.

Additionally, new high-speed taxiways – those more gently sloped from the standard 90-degree off-ramps — are going in to get planes off and on the runways faster – saving time on the ground and helping to put a dent in reduction of congestion and flight delays.

“The airplane will get to the gate faster,’’ explained Selden.

The $292 million reconstruction and rehabilitation contract is funded by the Port Authority. This project will impact the regional economy with the creation of more than 2,460 jobs, $146.9 million in wages, and nearly $712.3 million in economic activity.

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