Arctic asphalt contract
Andøya Airport in Northern Norway was built in the 1950s for military use. The airport is the base of the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s P3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft, which patrols the Barents Sea. The airport has also been used by civilian airlines since 1964. The airport was built using five-metre-wide square concrete slabs on which several layers of asphalt have been applied over the decades.
The Arctic climate and de-icing chemicals have eroded the asphalt paving. Sand and cobbles coming off the crumbling asphalt and the uneven surface can be a hazard to planes. New layers of asphalt have not solved the problem permanently.
Therefore, the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency (NDEA), the agency responsible for the Norwegian Armed Force’s properties, decided that the asphalt of the runway, which is 3,000 metres long and 45 metres wide, will be completely milled and the runway re-surfaced. In addition, the concrete cover under the asphalt will be overhauled.
Lemminkäinen secured the contract in July last year and commenced work in August. Under the contract, the runway will be widened a couple of metres, and the equipment, lighting and stormwater inlets will be renewed. A total of 44,000 tonnes of new asphalt will be used for the airstrip surface.
The old asphalt was milled during winter. The concrete slabs were cleaned and a rubber mesh was placed over the gaps between them, preventing the slabs from moving upwards due to temperature fluctuations.
A lot of technology, wiring and cables had accumulated under the old airport, and the purpose of use of all of them was no longer known.
According to Stian Andreassen, Lemminkäinen’s project manager, this required strong cooperation between each party in the project.
The success of the contract has required clear organisation and active coordination in all work phases. According to Andreassen, there is a meeting with the building contractor every other day, a construction meeting once every two weeks, and close contacts with the Air Force and commercial operators.
The airport operates normally during the construction work, using the second, shorter runway.
The airport is located in the Arctic zone on the northern tip of the Vesterålen archipelago. It is a seven-hour drive by road from the closest major city, Tromsø. By plane, the trip takes a little over half an hour.
The Arctic Ocean starts north of the airport, meaning that the airport is, figuratively speaking, located at the edge of the world. The conditions can be fierce. The wind, snow and polar night make the work more difficult during the winter.
According to Knut Grimstad, NDEA’s project manager, there was a lot of activity at the site last year.
“The contractor has done a great job. We currently believe that the contract can be completed during the summer as planned,” Grimstad says.
According to Grimstad, weather will be a significant factor also from now on.
“I hope that favourable weather conditions will continue. Rain or cold is not welcome during asphalting.”
Grimstad praises the flexible cooperation with Lemminkäinen.
“While milling the asphalt, we have encountered surprises as we do not know where the cables are located. This has required improvisation, but together we have been able to solve these problems.”