A $9.6 million project is reshaping Merrill Field. A giant crane is pounding the ground in an effort to level out the aging airfield.

Airport Manager Paul Bowers said the airport was built over what was then the city landfill after it closed in 1987. He said over the years, the garbage beneath the ground has settled at different rates, causing pavement at the airport to buckle, heave, sink and roll. That, he said, can cause problems for pilots and their planes.

“It becomes problematic if you do any speed, because aircraft are not ATVs — they don’t do well on uneven terrain,” Bowers explained.

The work involves a 15-ton piece of concrete that’s attached to a 70-foot crane. The concrete weight is dropped repeatedly in the same spot.

“It dynamically compacts [the garbage] some six to 10 feet,” Bowers said. “Then you put a new base on that and pave it and it should be a good 15 years before you have any more settling in any way.”

Bowers said a federal grant is paying for the work. He said the project is in its fifth phase and is likely to continue next summer.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.