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Airport to keep fabric in multimillion-dollar garage-roof fix

April 17, 2015

The Indianapolis Airport Authority could spend up to $6.5 million designing and building what it hopes is a solution to a parking garage canopy that has failed twice in four years.

And the solution will still include a fabric cover, which collapsed under snow and ice in 2011, and ripped open last year, again under the weight of snow.

“The sag on the fabric is the biggest problem,” said Shannetta Griffin, senior director of planning and development, and an engineer.

Griffin evaluated several replacement options, all of which took into account plans to add a partial glass wall around the garage atrium to keep precipitation off the third-floor people mover, escalators and elevators.

The most costly option, estimated at $17.9 million, was a European air-filled pillow system, made of a different type of high-tech fabric. The manufacturer would have required the airport to install a new structural support system, which is what drove up the cost, Griffin said.

A glass and metal roof, which also would require additional supports, was estimated at $11.5 million. An open steel structure was estimated at $9.9 million.

Board member Kelly Flynn asked whether the airport shouldn’t just spend the money it would take to get away from the fabric roof. “It looks like we can find another $3 million to do it right,” he said.

Under the current design, snow accumulates on the canopy, rather than sliding off as it would on an arched roof. Shoring up the canopy support structure should solve the problem, Griffin said. The plan is to add lateral support beams and trusses, which will cut each span in half. The airport would still send maintenance crews to clean off the canopy after big snowfalls.

“I’m confident with the fabric usage,” Griffin said.

The board authorized the airport staff to start the bidding process for a designer, construction manager and other vendors. The replacement canopy is expected to be finished by November or December of 2016.

Griffin said she’s also confident that the current fabric, which was replaced last summer, will withstand another winter.

The airport authority also delegated its authority to Executive Director Mario Rodriguez to execute a contract for the rehabilitation of the north runway and two taxiways. The $13.7 million contract, which is contingent on the receipt of federal grant money, will go to the Harper Company of Hebron, Kentucky. The airport authority will pay 25 percent of the project cost, or about $3.4 million.

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