By: Dick Lindsay
PITTSFIELD — The heart of the Pittsfield Municipal Airport $22.5 million expansion gets under way today and should wrap up by Friday, airport officials have said.
Starting this morning, large dump trucks will be hauling tons of asphalt to the air field so construction workers can pave the main runway extension and other areas totaling 1,450 feet, according to airport manager Mark Germanowski.
“We expect 60 to 100 truck trips a day on South Mountain Road,” Germanowski said. “If the weather is good for all five days, we should complete the paving by the end of the week.
Aside from a slight chance of showers or an isolated thunderstorm today and Tuesday, forecasters predict dry weather most of theweek.
The runway paving is one of the last major aspects of the nearly two-year-old project Germanowski has said should be “substantially completed” by Dec. 1.
The other significant items left to finish include moving a roughly 2,100-foot section of South Mountain Road, between the new and former entrances to Wild Acres Park, to the north. Last August, the city blocked off that part of South Mountain to through traffic.
“The whole road realignment has been graded, but utility work still needs to be done before we can complete the new section,” said Germanowski.
The road’s relocation has allowed the 5,000-foot main runway to be extended north by 790 feet. In addition, another 1,000-foot unpaved safety area is being installed on each end of the runway.
As for South Mountain Road, it will remain closed to through traffic until about Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop has looked into several residents’ complaints that the airport expansion has caused damage to their homes on Barker Road. During a neighborhood meeting three weeks ago, they claimed the cracks in their foundations were due to water run off from the construction site. The homeowners called on the contractor and the city to seriously address their concerns.
Lothrop, whose ward includes the airport, says he’s inspected some of the homes and found water damage has occurred, but its unclear if the airport project is the culprit.
He cited another possible contributing factor to the poor drainage issue.
“I’m concerned about water running from Barker Road into [the homeowners’] yards,” Lothrop said. “I’ve taken some photos, along with the people’s concerns, and passed them on to City Hall.”
Residents at the July 26 meeting were also irate they weren’t notified the project’s general contractor was working on July 4th. The airport neighbors said the noise from the construction ruined their outdoorplans for the holiday. German owski said work will be halted for the Labor Day holiday in two weeks.
“If something out of the ordinary is going to happen again that will be an adverse impact, we will let people know about it,” he said.
One immediate positive impact from the airport expansion, according to Lothrop, is the new pavilion area under construction at Wild Acres Park.
“Part of the replication agreement was construction ofa new facility to replace the old one that was removed,” he said.
The first half of the project involved the replication of 5.7 acres of wetlands and a body of water encompassing one-tenth of an acre. Approximately 120 acres of trees were also removed because the federal Aviation Administration considered them an air traffic obstruction.
The leveled landscape created a visual void that shocked those living at the airport. Airport officials have vowed to plant new, lowgrowth vegetation, but it could take several years for the plantings to fully mature.