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LaGuardia runway makes list of top concrete projects

Almost 40 years after a historic runway extension at LaGuardia Airport that paved the way for larger jets and helped turn the airport into a major transportation hub, the project has been named one of the 50 most important concrete construction works in the nation’s history by an industry trade group.

Completed in 1966, at the dawn of the commercial jet age, the project boosted the length of both runways to 7,000 feet, projecting them over Flushing Bay.

Thanks in part to the project, LaGuardia has become one of the busiest airports in the country despite its diminutive 680-acre size, Port Authority Executive Director Joseph Seymour said in a news release.

Last year 22.5 million passengers passed through LaGuardia, the Port Authority said.

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Precast Concrete Institute honored 50 of the nation’s largest and most innovative uses of precast concrete. LaGuardia Airport’s runway extension project received the honor, joining the ranks of some other more glamorous projects such as the Disney World Monorail and San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The institute sorted through some 400 finalists nominated by member companies.

“This particular runway project, completed shortly after the dawn of the Jet Age, has helped our historic airport maintain its competitive edge,” said PA Vice Chairman Charles Gargano, “and we are honored that the PCI has recognized its importance.”

The LaGuardia project involved the placement of more than 2 million square feet of preassembled concrete slabs, extending the airport’s intersecting runways into Riker’s Island Channel and Flushing Bay.

Unlike regular concrete, which is normally formed on site, precast concrete is factory-produced, usually in giant slabs, and assembled at the job location, helping hold down costs while ensuring quality control.

The airport, which will celebrate its 65th anniversary in December, overhauled its runway decks in 2003 to handle the next-generation Boeing 767-400.

Since the airport opened in late 1939, the Port Authority has made more than $1 billion in improvements.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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