WORCESTER — Environmental impacts of landing system upgrades will be minimized as the Massachusetts Port Authority moves forward in its attempt to make the Worcester Regional Airport more reliable, officials said at a hearing Thursday night.
Massport recently submitted the Environmental Notification Form as part of a process the agency must go through to get the required state certification to move forward on the permit process for the proposed work.
The work would include lighting and equipment upgrades along with construction of a new “jug handle” partial taxiway at the end of Runway 11.
Because the work would impact wetlands and a rare bird species called the grasshopper sparrow, Massport needs to adhere to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Officials solicited public input as part of a 30-day open comment period, but no questions or statements were made at Thursday night’s hearing, held on the second floor of the airport.
Lisa Standley, a project manager with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, the design and engineering firm consulting Massport, said the CAT III Instrument Landing System will allow landings under virtually all weather conditions. She said the airport is thought to have a fog problem, but it’s really because the airport, at 1,000 feet above sea level, is in the clouds.
Ms. Standley said the construction of the taxiway will allow planes to get off the runway while turning around to allow other planes to land.
She said the topography of the site, with its steep slopes off the runway, does not allow for a standard taxiway that would run the length of the runway.
She said special attention will be paid to water quality during construction, since the project will impact nearby wetlands such as Kettle Brook Reservoir, Lynde Brook and the Lynde Brook Reservoir.
She said traffic during construction will increase along Mulberry Street in Leicester, mostly because of the tons of fill that will need to be trucked in.
Massport hopes to finish the project by 2018.
Anne Canaday of the MEPA office said the agency will accept public comment until Feb. 21.