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Yellowknife Airport seeks engineers to probe runway issues

Last modified: January 23, 2023 at 6:29am


Yellowknife’s airport will bring in geotechnical engineers to find out why its two runways appear susceptible to continued settling of the ground beneath them.

An area near the intersection of the two runways is the problem zone. Runway 16-34, which runs roughly north-south parallel to the main terminal building, needed repair work near that intersection in 2018.

Runway 10-28, which runs roughly northwest to southeast, had separate repair work in 2015.

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There are already signs that both runways will need more work in the next decade, the NWT government – which operates the airport – said in a request for proposals seeking contractors to investigate.

A GNWT map shows a plan of Yellowknife Airport and two sections of runway that required recent repair work
A GNWT map shows a plan of Yellowknife Airport and two sections of runway that required recent repair work.

“The proximity of the settlement areas suggests that a common geotechnical feature or features may be contributing to the settlement problems,” that request for proposals states.

Airport managers want geotechnical engineers to investigate the soil beneath the runways, “determine if a long-term solution to the settlement problems is possible and practical” and, if a solution appears possible, come up with “a cost-effective repair” that will keep the runways stable for the next 20 to 25 years.

The budget for the project has not been made public.

A number of northern Canadian airports face challenges adapting to shifting ground conditions brought on by thawing permafrost.

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A 2013 photo, renowned among specialists who work in the field, shows a Jeep SUV parked awkwardly atop a sizeable slump in an Inuvik airport runway – vividly demonstrating the problem.

The Yellowknife Airport request for proposals states bids will be vetted in part according to the experience engineers have in dealing with permafrost-related concerns.

In documentation for prospective bidders, the GNWT notes that proposed solutions can’t shut down both runways at the same time “for more than a few hours” given the need for the airport to remain operational throughout.

The territorial government hopes to select a contractor by March and receive a final report by November this year.

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