The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded more than $580,000 in federal funds to Central Jersey Airport in Hillsborough for upgrades airport officials say have been in the works for more than a decade.
Some $532,000 will fund the construction of new taxi lanes for the one-runway airport, which has been in operation for more than 60 years, said airport co-owner Joseph Horner. The lanes will allow planes to access new T-hangars the airport plans to construct. Horner said the lanes would be wider and safer and are part of design upgrades airport officials have been planning since 1997.
The FAA will also fund a $50,160 automated weather observing system, or AWOS, which tracks incoming weather patterns. The T-hangars will be paid for by the airport because the FAA's Airport Improvement Program only funds safety related upgrades, said FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac.
The changes are part of the airport's FAA-approved master plan, a large-scale reconstruction largely focused on safety issues that would bring the aging airport up to modern standards, Horner said. The plan was cleared by the Hillsborough Planning Board in 2005.
The master plan also included a new access road, which was funded with a previous $2.2 million FAA grant, Salac said.
The state Department of Transportation paid $4.2 million to purchase development rights for the airport in 2003. The purchase, funded by the FAA's Airport Improvement Program, was part of a stepped-up effort to save the state's network of small, general-aviation airports.
Township and state officials supported the purchase as a way to keep the 124-acre airport from being bought and developed. In 1999, the airport's owners reached an agreement to sell the property to a developer, but they later backed out of the deal.
In a statement, U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.) said the FAA funds will ensure safer operations at the airport.
Menendez said the upgrades will benefit both travelers and economic development in the region, but one group of Manville residents are less enthused. The group, called Truth in Government Expected by Residents, or TIGER, fought government ownership of the airport and have expressed concerns about the airport's proximity to residential properties.
TIGER chairwoman Sally Saharko whose backyard pool sits "right there on the edge of the airport," said neighbors continue to see lingering problems with the airport. She said she found groundwater contamination and opposed any further expansion of the airport.
Airport and township officials have said the changes are not an expansion but necessary safety improvements.
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