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Airport completes North Aviation Development

With the snip of a ribbon stretched across a newly extended taxiway, the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport celebrated the completion of an ambitious, $29 million project designed to support the expansion of its largest tenant, Gulfstream Aerospace, while making room for future aviation business.

Announced in late 2010, the massive North Aviation Development project involved the realignment of Gulfstream Road, including construction of a tunnel; a new electrical vault, construction of a taxiway bridge and the building of a new Taxiway H as well as the extension of existing Taxiway A.

“This was an undertaking that came with its own set of challenges, not the least of which was the marshy, muddy coastal terrain,” said Sylvester Formey, chairman of the Savannah Airport Commission. “But our airport has a truly exceptional and professional group of folks who know how to get the job done.

“Not only did they get it done, they brought it in under budget.”

Formey said the project gives the commission an additional 200 acres of developed land that can be marketed for further airport development while also meeting the needs of a rapidly expanding Gulfstream.

“It’s really a win for everyone,” he said.

Airport executive director Patrick Graham agreed.

“Our partnership with Gulfstream is important, not only for us but for the community,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have them here.”

Gulfstream Aerospace President Larry Flynn said the feeling was mutual.

“We love Patrick Graham and the airport commission,” Flynn said. They — as well as the city and the state — have been wonderful to us.

“We started here in 1967 with approximately 100 employees,” he said. “Now we’re at 8,500 in Savannah, adding 1,700 in the last year alone.

“We’re really excited about where this taxiway will lead us.”

 

Dodging alligators

Like most projects of its magnitude, the North Aviation Development brought its share of unexpected complications, Graham said.

“On the surface, when you looked at the plans, it seemed pretty simple — you dig a hole, build a roadway, build a taxiway,” he said.

“Little did we know it would be like managing a moving target.”

Issues ranged from major problems, such as poor soil conditions at the site of the tunnel running under Gulfstream Road, to minor inconveniences, such as the 9-foot alligator that temporarily halted tunnel construction.

Graham credited airport staff and Henry Burton, the project’s full-time resident inspector, with keeping the work on track and on budget.

Burton was brought in from the LPA Group of Columbia, S.C., a division of Michael Barker Corp. McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia was the general contractor.

Graham also thanked the city of Savannah for its help with the project, which was funded by Federal Aviation Administration entitlement grants and airport revenues.

“The FAA money on this project is funneled through the city of Savannah,” he said.

Savannah Mayor Pro Tem Van Johnson called the development “a reaffirmation of the relationship between the city of Savannah, the airport and Gulfstream.”

It’s the kind of relationship that creates a ripple effect in the job market, he added.

“Think about it — 50,000 square yards of sod, 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, locally provided with local labor. Those are all local job opportunities.”

 

BY THE NUMBERS

1,225 feet: length of the Gulfstream Road tunnel, a little more than three football fields.

689: concrete pilings in tunnel

750,000 gallons: amount of water pumped daily by a 35-foot-deep lift station to keep the tunnel dry

1,800 feet: length added to Taxiway A

4,033 feet: length of new Taxiway H

15 inches: thickness of the taxiways, which required 20,253 cubic yards of concrete

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