SAN FRANCISCO - One of the biggest buzzwords in Washington D.C. is infrastructure and the enormous cost of creating it, maintaining or replacing it. A great example of that can be found at San Francisco International Airport, where a truly massive project, due to be finished by Labor Day, has been going on for four months.
Since April, SFO has been working on the complete resurfacing of its longest runway, 20 hours a day, six days a week.
"What we're standing on is really the life blood of an airport and it really allows everything to flow in and out of this space," said SF Airport Information Officer Doug Yakel.
The $160 million project will soon be delivered on budget and a year ahead of the original schedule. "We were actually planning on doing this in 2022, but we decided to do it now to take advantage of the reduced flight schedule, so that it would have less of an impact on our travelers," said Mr. Yakel.
Redoing the runway bed and covering it with the world's strongest asphalt, is an enormous job.
"What we're doing here is equivalent to paving 75 football fields worth of this surface," said Yakel. Quite literally, every square inch of this two and a quarter mile runway has been examined with ground penetrating radar. Crews will go down, as deep as they have to, even down to the virgin land, in order to make sure that when this runway opens on Labor Day, they won't have to do very much more to it for another decade.
"We've got three-feet thick of this asphalt and that's what it really takes to support aircraft like a 747," said Yakel. That can be as much as 450 tons and the traffic will be relentless upon full recovery. "We need to be prepared to have over 700 aircraft landing per day; at the busiest times of day we have one aircraft landing every single minute." said Yakel.
The amount of economic power of the infrastructure known as SFO delivers to the Bay Area, is mind boggling. By the numbers: 46,000 jobs on the airport itself, 150,000 Bay Area jobs and $60 billion, of economic impact for the Bay Area economy each year. "When you talk about essential infrastructure, it doesn't get more essential than what we're standing on right now," said Yakel.
And, that's just one airport in a worldwide network of airports. Experts say, in the next five years alone, the U.S. will have to spend $115.4 billion for necessary airport infrastructure projects.