The often-turbulent journey of Miami International Airport’s $6.2-billion capital improvement program is currently flying smoothly, yet officials also are braced for what they say is the most challenging construction period of all.

“This is the decisive year,” says Jim Eldridge, construction manager for the joint venture of Odebrecht Construction, Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., and Parsons Transportation Group, Pasadena, Calif. “It’s like playing the Super Bowl every day for six months.”

More than 800 construction workers a day are currently working on Miami’s expanding north terminal.
Photo: Andres Romero/ Parsons Odebrecht J.V.
More than 800 construction workers a day are currently working on Miami’s expanding north terminal.
The joint venture divided terminal sections into manageable work areas.
Photo: Andres Romero/ Parsons Odebrecht J.V.
The joint venture divided terminal sections into manageable work areas.

POJV is working to meet critical milestones on its $1.1-billion North Terminal Development contract, including one in June for new gates for American Airlines and another in July for the carrier’s new ticket counters and the first phase of a 9.5-mile-long baggage system.

POJV received the initial contract in 2005 after financially distressed American Airlines ceded the terminal project to Miami-Dade Aviation Dept. The agency awarded sole bidder POJV a $542-million, four-year managing general contract, with hopes the terminal would be ready in 2008. But the original documents did not fully address the project’s complexities, recalls Lucas Prado, POJV project executive. Negotiations nearly doubled the price.

The north terminal contract represents the single-biggest piece of the airport expansion, started in 2007 and slated for completion in 2011. MDAD’s overall program budget for the terminal is more than $2.8 billion. Odebrecht officials estimate the joint venture is delivering more than $1 million of construction per day.

In 2006, the department planned to let five contracts on a three-quarter-mile-long stretch of terminal between concourses B and D. But North Highlands, Calif.-based MCM Construction submitted the only bids for completion of the terminal shell and for finishes. The two bids came in about $300 million over the department’s estimate of $90 million for the contracts.

Officials repackaged the shell and finish work into 13 contracts and subsequent bids were much closer to estimates. Concourse A was shut down to allow 70% of work to proceed landside and to avoid time-consuming security clearances for construction workers.

The 1.3-mi-long terminal structure includes roughly 3.2 million sq ft of new and renovated space, increasing the number of gates from 11 to 50 and adding over 100 new ticket counters. POJV has divided the work into eight main projects and 19 others. Most of the main projects involve areas of the various concourses that make up the North Terminal.

One of the biggest engineering feats sits atop the current structure’s roof. That is where POJV and Sumitomo Corp. of America, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, are building a $134.9-million, nearly 1-mi-long automated people mover. Four stations will be positioned along the double-tracked guideway.

All 20 vehicles have been delivered. RailWorks Corp., New York City, and its L.K. Comstock & Co. Inc. subsidiary are providing design-build services for the running surface, maintenance and control facility, traction power, train controls and communications systems. The people mover will handle up to 9,000 passengers per hour and is scheduled for completion in 2010.

In September, MDAD awarded POJV a $259-million design-build contract to build a 1.3-mile people mover system that will link the terminal system to the Miami Intermodal Center, an off-site $370-million transportation hub being built by Turner Construction Co., New York City.POJV received notice to proceed in March. The 6,200-ft-long elevated guideway will carry two light-rail tracks and will be approximately 40 ft above grade, supported by concrete piers approximately 120 ft apart. Completion is expected in September 2011.

Meanwhile, MCM Dragados, a joint venture between MCM of Miami and Dragados USA, New York City, is overseeing a $125.6-million contract that immediately abuts the POJV contract on the terminal. That work consists of interior renovations and exterior alterations to 450,500 sq ft of space. The work includes installing new finishes, lighting, furnishings, graphics and electrical equipment. The job also includes building two roof structures to support new HVAC units and reinforcing existing footers, columns and beams.

This interiors contract has to wrap up at the same time as POJV’s work does in order to meet the June and July target dates for the baggage system and ticket counters, says Eldridge. “We have a common goal. We have to finish at the same time so the ticket counters can open.”

“We have had people all over the place like ants” since late 2008, Eldridge adds. He estimates an average of 850 workers onsite daily. All work must be performed without disrupting airport operations. “Doing construction and not impacting the existing airport operations is the main objective,” Eldridge says. “That means we have to work closely on a day-to-day basis with the airlines, MDAD, construction personnel and the airport maintenance and operations departments.”

The close working relationship also includes subcontractors. “Changing conditions is a major factor here,” Eldridge says. “It’s about getting their work orders approved and getting the money so we can do the work.”

Juan Carlos Arteaga, NTD program director for MDAD, says the first milestone of opening gates D-24 and D-25 is on target for June 4. “All other 2009 significant milestones that would affect substantial completion are maintaining schedule,” he says. Gilberto Neves, Odebrecht’s chief executive officer, says one million work hours have been completed with no major injuries.