||Middle East District employees attend cultural awareness training, designed to improve interactions with customers and contractors in the Middle East and Central Asia.Photo by Jan Dove.
WINCHESTER, Va. -- With an increased number of U.S. forces deploying to Afghanistan, the Middle East District is supporting the necessary infrastructure and helping the U.S. Air Force prepare for a potential surge of air traffic moving in and out of the country by overseeing construction of a $26.3 million strategic ramp at the Transit Center on Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan.
The design-build contract was awarded to Serka Insaat of Turkey on Aug. 13, 2009, and the Notice to Proceed was issued Dec. 22. A series of obstacles, including a political coup and subsequent change in government, initially caused delays. The project is now on track, but faces the difficult task of reaching completion before the harsh winter months arrive and construction is forced to shut down.
“We need to speed up construction without compromising quality or safety,” said Ted Upson, project manager, Construction-Operations Division. “That is the challenge now.”
But it was not the first challenge, according to Capt. Jason King, project manager forward. Working in Kyrgyzstan can be complicated. To begin, land for the Transit Center, formerly known as Manas Air Base and primarily operated by the U.S. Air Force, is leased from the Manas International Airport. As the area has expanded, airport officials have applied additional scrutiny to operations. Permits are required for many things, but the new government is still establishing its processes and obtaining the permits can be difficult.
“Some of our processes and quality standards are unfamiliar to them. That can also cause delays in permits being issued,” said King. “Standardizing procedures was initially difficult, but we were able to track down all the necessary permits and get the ball rolling.”
|Workers begin paving a test strip for a new ramp at the Transit Center on Manas International Airport. USACE Photo by Capt. Jason King.
“We would jump one hurdle and another would pop up,” added Upson.
“We eventually figured it out, mostly due to the tremendous effort of Capt. King in Kyrgyzstan.”
Once construction began, issues with the delivery of materials continued to interfere with major progress. The contractor also resolved that problem, however, and had placed 53.6 percent of the total concrete pavement, according to a MED report from Sept. 22. And, as of Oct. 27, three parking spaces were open and in use on a new ramp, with the remaining spaces scheduled for turnover to the user in November. Based on recent estimations, officials with MED and the Air Force agree that it is probable the construction can be completed by the end of the year when the worst of the winter weather sets in.
“We hold daily progress meetings with airport officials and work through any concerns they have about the project,” said Upson. “The contractor is fully mobilized and working in shifts to speed progress. For all of the obstacles the project faced, we feel good about where we are now.”
The strategic ramp is MED’s first major project in Kyrgyzstan, and facilities at the Transit Center are expected to be transferred to the country’s government when U.S. operations cease.
While the political situation remains uncertain, recent parliamentary elections could have an impact on the U.S. presence there.
“Politics are not our main concern. It could affect us, but we have no control over it,” said Upson. “We will remain aware of the situation, carefully navigate during our interactions with government officials, and continue to do our job, which is to complete construction for our customer.”