Any project for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not going to be easy and contractors who bid these jobs know that going into it. When you’re presented with a 1,000 page bid package, you either accept the challenge or walk away.
At the beginning of 2021, Mauro Comuzzi, president at The Paving Lady and John Provenzano, estimator, took on one such challenge with Parsons, a global general contractor. The company won the bid to reconstruct the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) parking lot and for their efforts, won Pavement’s 2022 Paving: Parking Lot award as well.
“The Miami ARTCC is the fifth busiest ARTCC in the USA and handles over 2 million aircraft operations a year,” Comuzzi says. “We were approached by Parsons to come in and mill and pave their entire facility, which was mostly parking lots and side roads. We were also asked to complete the concrete sidewalk, curbing, ADA repairs and striping throughout the site.”
Before their bid was accepted, the company had to be vetted. They needed to show certified payrolls, complete background checks for all team members and provide bonding for the project. Comuzzi and Provenzano didn’t shy away from the job because of these requirements.
“I have a background in construction management and John has completed Port Authority work, so we went into this project with a very aggressive outlook,” Comuzzi says.
Given their experience and licensing as a State Certified General Contractorthe company also decided they would act as the general contractor for the project instead of as a paving sub-contractor.
“We felt that as a paving contractor, we were going to have the edge if we look at it on as a general contractor,” Comuzzi adds. “We typically do not act as a GC but on this project, 90% of the scope was paving, so it was an easy decision for us to act as the prime contractor and that worked out very well for us.”
Efficient Project Phasing
Acting as the GC, The Paving Lady could also help guide how the work was done.
The original bid would have had the team working in 10 different phases to complete the work in what the facility deemed as “manageable chunks” that would keep the facility open and operational, and allow the ARTCC team to maintain security protocol.
“That would have spread the timeline of the work out to be over 90 days,” Comuzzi says. “They wanted us to come in and mill, pave, stripe and open one segment of the lot and then move on to the next area and mill, pave and stripe. No two phases of work could be done at the same time with their original plan.”
The team at The Paving Lady instead proposed doing all work in three or four segments and they would then move on to the next area. Comuzzi said their background of working with housing associations gave them an edge in their phasing operations.
“With our experience, we went in and had a pre-construction meeting and suggested a different way of doing the job,” Comuzzi says. “This would allow us to get the work done quicker so we would be there less time, and they really liked that idea.”
Their new plan would allow them to move the project forward efficiently and keep in line with the security regulations on the project.
“Our guys needed to be within the eyesight of the ARTCC staff at all times,” Comuzzi says. “They couldn’t drive a machine around the corner without someone going with them so we proposed a plan that would allow them to manage and control their security team, while also completing the work in a timely manner.”
Oh and by the way, the entire bid process was done without anyone on the team actually seeing the site due to COVID protocols.
Overcoming Obstacles & Staying On Task
Once the proposed plan was accepted, crews got to work. The project required daily, weekly and monthly schedules and the team had to guarantee continued operations to the entire site and protect.
Upon entry and exit to the site, all vehicles and personnel were searched by security forces. Two resident engineers were on site continuously monitoring the work and the staff to ensure compliance with the project specifications and FAA regulations.
Each day, the ARTCC team required 24-hour advance notice of every employee that was going to be on site. Not just their team, but team members on all the sub-contractors as well.
“The process was cumbersome because we would have to come up with this list of the people that were going to be there and if you weren’t on that list, and you showed up, you were not getting in,” Comuzzi says.
The adaptability of the crew is what made this project successful, Comuzzi adds.
“Any good contractor could do what we did on this job,” he says. “We were contracted to mill and pave, anybody can do that. But it takes a certain amount of teamwork and coordination to do it successfully like this. I think the people involved on our side, our team that we had involved in this, is the reason that this job went so well.”
The crew used a Wirtgen 7-ft. mill to remove 2400 tons of material from the lot. They chose to use a Weiler P385 for the paving so the team would be able to maneuver within the tighter areas of the project. The crew milled and paved the 28,654 square yard area on time and under budget.
Unplanned Work Added to Project
About 45 days into the work, The Paving Lady crew was 90% completed with the work. ARTCC asked the Parsons team if it would be possible to construct two brand new parking lots, something that was not mentioned on the original bid, but work The Paving Lady team felt comfortable completing.
“They came to us and said they still had money in the budget and asked us to give them a price on these two new lots,” Comuzzi says. “They approved the price and Parsons got to work on the design build for the new lots.”
Work effectively came to a halt while the engineering team took over for the new sections. Once that portion was completed, The Paving Lady came in to remove the existing vegetation and fill and built two additional parking lots from the ground up.
“This is one of the busiest air traffic control centers in the United States so you can imagine, there was mechanical equipment every two feet. That’s a maze of equipment that we had to pave and sealcoat work around,” Comuzzi says. “And if you hit something, you never knew what would be the consequences of us hitting that line, or a pipe, so we had to be very very careful anywhere we were digging.”
Before they could begin work on the lot, the team had to use ground penetrating radar equipment to see if there was anything below ground and mark everything that was there.
“We don’t typically like getting into new construction, other than paving new construction, somebody does the rock and will come in and do the paving. But on this, we felt that we had the right subcontractors and the right people involved with us that we could do it and we did our jobs very well.”
Their experience and ability to adapt to project demands outside the scope of their daily tasks is what made this project successful.
“I don’t think any contractor has the processes or procedures in place that will give you an edge in these types of projects,” Comuzzi says. “I think it’s all about the people that you have working for you, their ability to be flexible with the things you need to comply with and efficient communication to keep it all moving.”