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By Cécile Lucot
    Cécile Lucot has been living in St. Barths for 9 years. Originally from Bordeaux, this professional journalist has been the editor-in-chief of St-Barth Magazine for 6 years. She is actually a reporter for the daily local mini-newspaper "Today" and writes regularly for regional magazines such as Mer Caraïbes and Tropical, and once or twice a month presents a synthese of the local news on St. Barths Online.
  September 20, 2004 - #28
  The Work at the Airport Advances on Schedule
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In spite a 36-hour work stoppage caused by two days of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 14 and 15, the rebuilding of the runway at the airport is advanced according to the original timeline. Two strips of white vinyl creating a cross on the ground indicate from above that the airport is closed and that all air traffic has been prohibited since September 6. The pouring of four strips of concrete 650 meters long by 4.5 meters wide was completed on the evening of Sunday, September 19. The length of the new runway is identical to the old one, but the width has been increased by 1.5 meters on each side, increasing the surface from 15 to 18 meters. The new runway is 20 cm thick and made of reinforced concrete. It is built on the old runway that now serves as a lower layer. Since this is the case, the sections that were badly damaged were repaired before the new layer of concrete was poured.

Thirty workers have been on the job seven days a week from 7:00am to 8:00pm since the project got underway in the beginning of July. Some of them work into the night in order to create the joints in the concrete that must be made as soon as it reaches a certain density, or six to eight hours after it was spread. On each section of concrete, the joints are made every 4.5 meters. The machine responsible for spreading the 3000 cubic meters of concrete needed for the runway was brought by barge from Guadeloupe and unloaded at the end of the runway by September 6. There are only two machines like this in France, the one that is currently in France that came by way of Pointe-a-Pitre where is was used for the renovation of an airplane parking area at the Raizet airport. This machine spreads the concrete at a rate of 30 to 33 meters per hour. It is equipped to vibrate, thus allowing the concrete to be correctly spread and tamped down, and there are sensors to make sure that the surface is perfectly even. Another machine of gigantic proportions is the cement mixer that arrived on August 21, also via a barge that anchored at the end of the runway.

In order to allow for the unloading and installation of this machinery, the airport was closed on the morning of August 21. This cement mixer produces 50 cubic meters per hour. Even if these two machines were too large to be brought by truck to the airport from the commercial port in Public, the building materials came by this traditional route. A total of 960 bags of concrete each weighing 1.5 tons were brought from Public and deposited along the runway alongside a mountain made of 4,200 tons of gravel and a smaller mountain with 2,600 tons of sand.

The completion of the concrete work is scheduled for September 22. Next comes the joints, the luminous beacons, and the markings on the runway and the parking areas. A supplemental link will be created to facilitate access to the parking area for planes that have landed. The entire project, funded 50% by Europe and 50% by the municipality, is estimated at a cost of 3,450,000 euros.

For access to and from the island, ferry service has been increased with additional round trips daily. And even though there are certain days when the vibrations from the giant machines can be felt as far away as Lurin, the absence of all air traffic and the noise usually coming from the sky has given the local population a moment of peace and quiet. The airport reopens on October 15.

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  More to come
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  Cécile Lucot
  
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