Rock to Road

Features Projects Roads & Paving
Paving Pearson

The challenges of paving Canada’s busiest airport

April 21, 2014
By Steve Pecar


At Canada’s busiest airport, making sure  the runways get paved and completed on time is quite the job.

At Canada’s busiest airport, making sure  the runways get paved and completed on time is quite the job. Fortunately, the often-frantic pace regularly seen at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport proved to be no match for Gazzola Paving and Pave-Al, two established firms that joined together to take on the project, a project that has already had one phase completed and will continue in various stages over the course of the next three years.

Paving  Pearson 

Jerry McLaughlin, of Gazzola Paving, is project manager of the joint effort. He says that while the project can get tricky with so many things to consider, it’s also part of the job to get it done right by working efficiently and effectively.

The operators of the airport, The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), have high expectations and know that work on the site can be demanding, but McLaughlin believes the experience of the two firms shows they are up to the task.


“Yes, there is a lot that is going on at the airport, it’s like a small city with so much activity taking place every day and round the clock,” he says.

“But, it is part of our job to make sure everything runs smoothly and to cause as little disruption as possible. The airlines rely on their schedules and passengers have to get to where they are going. We understand that and we make sure we don’t get in their way.”

As well as Gazzola and Pave-Al, Tristar Electric and Airlines Pavement Markings also worked on the project as subcontractors. The Senior Project Engineer is Kevin Chee, and the Senior Project Manager is Luc Venditti who orchestrated the closures required to complete the work. Peto McCallum Ltd. took care of the quality assurance on behalf of the GTAA. Albert Carinci of Pave-Al serves as Contract Manager.

Other key managers on the project are Site Superintendents Tony Adessi and Elio Caira; Paving Superintendents Jeremy DeMello and Steve Milne; Paving Foremen Felix Mensah, Brian McNaughton, Jose DeSousa and Peter Lopes; Plant Foremen Mike Zeppieri and Greg Harbin; and QC Lab Manager Soloman Andulem.

Phase one
The first phase of the project covered 185,000m2, which included 2,000m of runway at 60m wide, as well as four high-speed exits and one intersecting taxiway.

Echelon paving 
Echelon paving was used with six pavers working on the 30m inside stretch, then three on each side for the outside 15m span.


The material used for the pave was: GTAA lower course PGAC 64-28 28,000mt, Dufferin aggregates and GTAA surface course PGAC-70-28E 24,000mt MRT Aggregates.

The GTAA had some very specific plans for resurfacing the existing asphalt in order to increase the quality of the runway:

Increase runway strength. To do this the net average increase in asphalt pavement thickness was made by 75 mm across the entire surface.

Improve drainage characteristics. This was done by building up crown by a 125 mm thickness and maintaining a 1.5 per cent crossfall.

Smoothness was improved by profile milling and multiple lifts of lower course asphalt that smoothed out the bumps.

For the middle 30m (the touchdown zone), a profile mill average of 50mm and resurface lift of 50-75mm layer of lower course was done, then a second lift of 50 mm on the lower course was completed.

The outside 30m was given a light mill average of 15mm and paved 50-25mm of lower course.

For the full width, 50mm lift of surface course was completed.

A tack coat was placed on milled surface and between each lift of asphalt.

The first phase 
The first phase of the project covered 185,000m2, which included 2,000m of runway at 60m wide, as well as four high-speed exits and one intersecting taxiway.


According to McLaughlin, the GTAA identified cold joints as one of the primary areas of pavement failure. They wanted to have this addressed.

“To do this we implemented echelon paving using six spreaders paving the middle 30m width of the runway in one shot of each lift,” he says.

“Then we paved the outer 15m of each side using three pavers on each side.”

Working on a project as big and as busy as an airport does present its problems and, as mentioned, making sure operations run as smoothly as possible is a priority.

Because Pearson Airport uses only two East-West runways — one of which was being worked on — weather is a key factor in determining which one is used. As such, the project had to be sequenced in such a way that if the second East-West runway was needed, workers had to be able to return to service on short notice (which meant within 24 hours).

“On the first weekend we started milling the centre 30m-wide deep grind area and installing the first lift of lower course asphalt,” says McLaughlin.

“As the weekend progressed and the long-range forecast models looked favourable, we received notice that the closure would stay in effect for the next full week and we could move on to the light milling and second lift of lower course asphalt starting Monday. Realizing that we had been given an opportunity to get a five or six weekend project completed in the next week, both companies modified their upcoming schedules to free up the crews, and the Plant Foreman pushed hard to get the aggregates and AC on the ground in order to mix out.”

Milling equipment 
Milling equipment, pavers and compaction rollers work together to efficiently complete the resurfacing of the 30m inside section of the runway.


Because of the teamwork and co-operation of all involved (including the weather as only one day was lost due to the rain) and the suppliers, the project was completed without a hitch. The work was started on June 7, and completed on June 18.

There was one extra day off included in that span, however.

As McLaughlin points out, the asphalt paving season is short so it’s not uncommon for work to take place on weekends and push through holidays. But, there was one day the team was aiming for where the workers could be at home with their families.

“Sunday, June 16 was Father’s Day and we were hoping for that day off,” says McLaughlin. “In both our companies family is important, so a milestone challenge was presented. If we could get all of the mainline runway surface completed by end of day Saturday, the next day, Father’s Day, would be a day off. The weather co-operated and everyone pulled together to get the work done. The result was we got to spend Father’s Day with our families.”

McLaughlin says the team is looking forward to getting back out there to complete more of the work that is required, work which allows Pearson Airport to be one of the busiest transportation hubs in North America.

With so many people relying on the airport for their means of transportation, the economic impact Pearson has on the GTA and the rest of the country is not lost on the contractors.

“We’d like to think we are doing our part,” says McLaughlin.

“Contributing to the economy, keeping our customers satisfied and making the airport experience great for travellers. That’s good for everyone.”

This article was originally published in Asphaltopics.

Print this page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *