Merritt Island Runway Safety Area Compliance and Shoreline Stabilization

Merritt Island, Florida

Merritt Island Airport, owned and operated by the Titusville Cocoa Airport Authority (TICO), sits within the environmentally sensitive Banana River Aquatic Preserve. This general-aviation airport occupies 129 acres and boasts a single 3,601-foot-long runway and safety area, which is partially surrounded by the Banana River and extends approximately 1,000 feet into Newfound Harbor.

The runway’s safety area had suffered erosion along the riverbank over the years – as much as one foot a year. The runway area extended approximately 60 feet from the water’s edge, falling short of the current 240-foot safety area required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) beyond the end of the runway.

TICO turned to Michael Baker to find a solution that would effectively strike a reasonable balance between ensuring airline passenger safety and good environmental stewardship. In addition to providing environmental analyses, mitigation plans, restoration, engineering, construction management and other services, we also helped the airport secure the necessary permits to initiate and complete the project.

Project design considerations included the following:

  • Sustainability remained a key driver, with design sufficient to withstand a 100-year storm, and the resulting structures built to enjoy a life span of 75-plus years.
  • The design would need to consider the mitigation of habitat damage, since the Runway Safety Area (RSA) would have to extend into an existing nature preserve, producing unavoidable damage to seagrass habitat.
  • The design had to incorporate measures to prevent further shoreline erosion and passively accommodate the management of stormwater runoff.
  • Our team would have to design the project to minimize any environmental impact on a nearby shellfish harvesting area, surrounding mangroves and overall airport operations.

Our engineering team designed the following elements as part of an environmentally sustainable solution:

  • Armored the shoreline along the runway with 37,000 square feet of articulated concrete block to prevent future erosion into the harbor
  • Filled in a portion of the harbor with sheet piles to contain water-quality impacts during construction
  • Built a one-acre seagrass island platform
  • Connected an existing off-site mosquito wetland to the river using large corrugated pipes


“This project represents the concerted efforts of a team of airport engineers thinking and acting as environmental stewards who also promote safety.”

Mariben A.
Project Manager

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