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Vancouver airport plans

Warren Frey
Vancouver airport plans

Even a new runway at the Vancouver International Airport will rise to the challenge of global competition.

Staff Writer

Even a new runway at the Vancouver International Airport will rise to the challenge of global competition.

Heavy demand is pushing existing facilities at the airport to the limit. With an estimated 23 million passengers a year by 2015, bigger passenger planes and increased global trade, the Airport Authority is considering making its third runway an elevated one.

“Essentially, it’s a bridge, but it has to be able to take the weight of an Airbus A380, which weights 1.5 million pounds,” YVR director of engineering projects Don Ehrenholz told The Journal of Commerce.

The “bridge” has to be strong enough to withstand enormous weight in a shorter span, like an overpass, he said.

In fact, the runway would cross over several local roads. About half a dozen elevated taxiways are in use around the world today, Ehrenholz said, including one in France and another in Orlando, Fla.

One of the major challenges of an elevated runway is keeping the grade to a minimum.

“Aircraft like landing on flat surfaces. The grade on the runway can’t exceed one per cent, which means being precise and making sure everything surrounding the bridge doesn’t exceed that grade,” Ehrenholz said.

The airport portion of the Canada Line is also being designed with the elevated runway in mind, he added. Creating the runway is not a huge project per se, in that it is a typical bridge, but with much heavier objects than a series of vehicles going across it.

Along with the new runway, the airport is planning a new terminal building to link the current international and domestic buildings.

“We’re forecasting that we’ll need to set up a new terminal by 2015, as the complex keeps getting pushed to the east. We want to reduce taxi times for airplanes, because it’ll be a 5-km (3.11-mile) taxi to get around the current building, as opposed to a 1.5-km (0.93-mile) taxi with the planned new terminal,” he said.

The airport is already spending millions on gate expansions for the international terminal, a new structure linking international and domestic terminals together and a portion of the Canada Line, which will take passengers directly from the airport to downtown Vancouver via rapid transit.

While an elevated taxiway and new terminal are only proposals at this stage, the Airport Authority is already expanding its existing facilities.

A $420-million, nine-gate expansion of the international wing of the airport is underway. Phase one of that project, scheduled to finish next spring, adds four new gates — two built to accommodate the massive new passenger Airbus A380 plane.

The other five gates in phase two are set to open during 2009.

The newly expanded international terminal will also be joined to the domestic terminal by way of the “link building,” a $117-million structure that will add check-in capacity, allow for more passenger screening, offices and baggage handling capabilities.

That five-storey building is scheduled for completion in 2007, and will also be connected to the Canada Line.

The Airport Authority has committed up to $300 million to fund the airport section of the Canada Line, which will link airport passengers with both the nearby City of Richmond and with downtown Vancouver.

“Despite the challenges of the current construction climate, we got contractors early, so we’re in good shape for completion of the first phase of the link building in 2007,” Ehrenholz said.

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