BWI runway extension project ready to resume

January 06, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

An $11 million runway extension project at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, stalled since the contractor was fired in October, will get back on track Monday when the Maryland Aviation Administration hires someone to finish the job.

The MAA received permission yesterday from the state Board of Public Works to accelerate the bidding process and choose a replacement for Driggs Corp. The Capitol Heights-based contractor was dismissed after a dispute over the construction timetable.

Airport officials want to tack 550 feet onto each end of the 9,500-foot, east-west runway so that it can accommodate 747s flying in from Middle East and Pacific Rim nations.

Once they settle on a new contractor, MAA officials say they hope construction can begin again in February and be wrapped up by Oct. 1, about two months behind the original competition date.

Adrienne Walker-Pittman, a spokeswoman for BWI, said it is critical to "finish the project as close to the original completion time as possible" to keep it synchronized with other construction plans at the airport.

Ms. Pittman refused to specify what the Driggs Corp. failed to accomplish in its five months on the job. She said some work was done, but state officials were unhappy with the company's progress and failure to accelerate its work.

Officials from Driggs were not available for comment yesterday.

The project includes building new taxiways, major runway relighting and relocating the Stoney Run Road interchange, which would be in the flight path.

The extension is part of a plan to boost the number of international flights to and from BWI, which has seen the number of domestic flights and passengers drop in the past two years.

In 1992, Japan Air chose Washington Dulles International Airport over BWI because its longest runway was inadequate to handle fully loaded 747s on some international flights.

More than half the cost of the extension is being picked up by the Federal Aviation Administration; the rest is being paid for by the state, much of it coming from proceeds from the new $3 surcharge being levied on all BWI passengers.

When the airport announced the runway extension, community groups rose in opposition, pushed for an environmental assessment and pledged to mount a unified fight against the proposal.

But at a public hearing in December 1992, only five people showed up to testify against the project.

Driggs was the low bidder in March 1993, promising to do the the work for $11.5 million. The next highest was P. Flanigan & Sons of Baltimore, which bid $11.9 million, state officials said.

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