Ever got irked at the news of a new airport being built, but taking millions, if not billions, of dollars and decades to build? What is up with building a road and a structure taking damn long? It shouldn’t be this hard, right? Well, after you read our answer, you will think you couldn’t have been more wrong!
Building a runway can be compared with a major highway/motorway regarding engineering, quality control in material, structure, planning and drainage, but only it is a whole lot more complex! Runways need to be constructed in a way that they can be easily repaired for many years, which includes removal of accumulated rubber and other unneeded matter.
This also involves at least a couple of resurfacings, although after a certain time, the “wear out” requires a complete removal and replacement of the multilayered runway.
The roads must be able to take the beating of heavy aircraft slamming on them and taxiing on and off 24/7. You can take an idea of the intensity of the force on the runway with the Airbus A380, for example, taking an average weight of over 1 million pounds at a time. To handle such loads on a regular basis, along with the harshness of the weather, the runway must be built with care and precision so that it doesn’t suffer “spalling” (surface erosion).
Most of the time the soil for the runway is also dodgy, meaning building an actual runway will first constitute digging down 20+ feet and filling the excavation site with blasted rock, coarse gravel, fine gravel, sand and then concrete slabs and asphalt.
The money required for buying or leasing the massive area for the airport, along with demolishing buildings to make space all racks up the costs. Add the cost of new roads, tunnels, control towers, taxiways, lighting and ILS systems make up millions of dollars.
So this is why it takes a lot of time to build an airport.