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Features - November 2004

Ready for Takeoff?

Fort Myers Facility Among the Numerous Airport Projects Under Construction in the Southeast

Airport construction activity is prevalent throughout the four-state region covered by Southeast Construction. Here, the magazine looks at some current or recently announced contracts, starting with a detailed update of the $438 million Southwest Florida International Airport project, now heading into its final phases in Fort Myers, Fla.

By Scott Judy

Despite the well-noted troubles of some carriers - such as Atlanta-based Delta Airlines - aviation projects are keeping a large number of contractors busy in the four-state region.

Major programs - from the massive multibillion dollar efforts in Miami and Atlanta to numerous new terminals and parking garages - are under way or soon beginning at airport facilities. Projects in the region also include rental-car facilities and baggage-screening systems.

All of this high-flying construction is a result of a slow-but-steady resurgence in air travel since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

As McGraw-Hill Construction's Engineering News-Record reported in May, the U.S. Department of Transportation expects that by the end of 2004, 15 of the nation's 35 major airports - including seven of the top 10 - will be busier than they were prior to Sept. 11.

Here, Southeast Construction looks at some of the aviation-related projects under way in the region, starting with a report on the $438 million Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.

SWFIA: Minor Delays

Outside of Miami or Atlanta, one of the bigger airport construction efforts in the Southeast can be found in Fort Myers, where DMJM Aviation is serving as program manager for the $438 million Southwest Florida International Airport. The overall project includes a new 800,000-sq.-ft. terminal with three concourses and parking garage, a new taxiway and related roadways.

Additionally, the new terminal will include 28 aircraft gates, with design accommodating future expansion to 65 gates.

Since work first started in December 2002, the multi-contract project has progressed to slightly more than 75 percent completion.

Dick Corp. of Pittsburgh is the general contractor for the Midfield Terminal, which has been the focus of activity for the past year. The firm's contract is currently valued at about $135 million, said Shelby Gardner, project manager, as opposed to its original $108 million cost. A TSA-mandated 30- by 900-ft. extension to the airside portion of the building to accommodate baggage-screening equipment has the contractor eyeing July as an expected completion date, instead of the original spring timetable.

"The July date is not accepted by the owner and is the subject of continuing discussions," Gardner said in late September. "With cessation of change work by the owner and a reconciliation of the time request or compensation for acceleration, I am fully confident that Dick Corp. will finish the project on schedule."

Joe Glowacki, construction manager for program manager DMJM, has said that the original deadline could still be attained, though he admitted to impacts from materials shortages and weather.

"We've run into some delivery delays for certain materials, statewide, because the whole state's been impacted with materials and other type issues," he said. "But right now there's no major delays for the entire project. We're still on track for that spring opening."

He was positive about Dick Corp.'s efforts.

"They've taken an aggressive approach to the schedule," he said. "They've been working with us to deal through the issues to get the project moving and done."

Gardner agreed that the project team was mostly able to dodge a major impact from the materials shortage in Florida.

"Fortunately there were no problems with cement or steel during the initial phase of the project when we were building the structural portion," he said. "We always eventually got the concrete, just not in the quantity required and on the day required."

Though the project dodged three more bullets - named Charley, Frances and Ivan - when those Category 4 (or better) hurricanes headed for other areas, the threat of each storm shut down the job for a total of about 10 days.

Current work in the terminal is focused on completing mechanical and electrical systems to allow for start-up of the HVAC system. Roof systems are complete in the terminal and two of the three concourses, and curtain-wall construction was nearing completion.

Interior finishes include ceiling system panels followed by installation of 12-in. terrazzo tiles, followed by the installation of baggage claim devices. Interior ceilings, including metal ceiling grids in the ticketing lobby and suspended ceilings in baggage claim, have already been placed. Most of the interior stucco walls in the public areas have already been installed.

The terminal's exterior will be a mix of exterior stucco and painting, precast panels and some metal panels.

A main focus of late has been the installation of the baggage-handling system, a job being handled by G & T Conveyor Co. of Tavares, Fla.

"That subcontractor is doing very well," Glowacki said, reporting the company was about 75 percent complete in September. G & T's work incorporates all of the baggage belts, X-ray machines and recirculation belts. The contractor is scheduled to energize and test the system by the end of the year.

Glowacki added that contractors building out tenant finishes for the airlines, rental-car companies and concessions owners will start performing their work by the end of the year as well.

"We're very satisfied with how the overall project has progressed," he said. "We've had some of these unforeseen instances that we've had to deal with, but what we planned roughly three years ago, when we were finishing up design and how this project would progress, has been following the sequence that we planned."

Project Team:

Owner: Lee County Port Authority, Fort Myers
Owner's Representative/Construction Manager: DMJM Aviation, Fort Myers
Architect, Terminal: Spillis Candela/DMJM, Coral Gables, Fla.
General Contractor, Terminal: Dick Corp., Pittsburgh

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