GARY — The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority awarded a $7.9 million contract Friday for a runway rehabilitation project that will rebuild more than 4,000 feet of the main runway.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pay 90 percent of the cost, with the state and airport itself kicking in 5 percent each. Superior Construction won the contract.
"It's a big project. We've been waiting on this for some time," airport engineering consultant Ken Ross said.
The rehabilitation work will involve more than half of the pre-expansion main runway. Another approximately 3,000 feet is scheduled for rehabilitation next year. The full runway, including the expanded section completed in 2015, is 8,859 feet.
The rehabilitation work will include replacement of the current asphalt surface with concrete. The project will require closure of the main runway for 21 days, Ross told the airport's board. The closure is planned to begin in mid-April.
Ross called it a "fast track" schedule.
"They're going to be pulling down some long nights and putting down a lot of concrete," Ross said.
He said the airport's tennants were involved in the scheduling.
"We picked the timeframe with the least amount of disruption to operators," Ross said.
The airport's second, "crosswind," runway will be open throughout the project.
Also Friday, the airport board approved eight contracts for work on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility scheduled to open in early summer.
The contracts totaled nearly $546,000, and include work on framing and drywall, carpentry, painting, flooring, exterior wall cladding, electrical work and "storefront" construction. The board previously approved contracts for roofing, concrete, exterior carpentry, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Friday's meeting was the first for new board chairman Tim Fesko, a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives appointed to the board by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Fesko's term runs through January 2022. As the governor's appointee, he is automatically board chairman.
Fesko replaces Stephen Mays as chairman. Mays has moved into a seat appointed by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. He is Freeman-Wilson's second appointment in recent months; real estate broker Ron McColly joined the board late last year.
Friday's meeting occurred simultaneously with a protest against the deportation of immigrants who lack legal permission to live in the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, contracts with a private firm to fly deportees from the Gary airport. More than 50 protesters, gathered in the parking lot of the airport's terminal, chanted against deportation and against a proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico as airport officials left the nearby administration building. A heavy police presence observed the protest.
Airport officials have explained that they have no authority regarding the flights.