Pittsfield, MA Airport Funding Approved

The Pittsfield Municipal Airport's $40 million expansion project continued to move forward this week after the City Council approved the borrowing of an additional $3.4 million for the second phase of land acquisitions.

Last week, Gov. Mitt Romney signed a bill allowing for a land swap that will enable the 350-acre airport to expand its runway safety area. The measure allows the transfer of 21 acres of the Wild Acres Conservation area on South Mountain Road to the city in exchange for 84 acres that the city will take through land acquisitions.

The council's action enables the city to begin negotiations with landowners to acquire additional private properties around the airport. The additional money was required because the council had approved only up to $2 million for the first phase.

City Treasurer G. Richard Bordeau told the council's finance subcommittee last month that the additional borrowing request would solve a "cash flow problem."

Reinbursement expected

Because the land is being taken as part of the airport improvement program, the Federal Aviation Administration will reimburse the city for 95 percent of the cost of each land acquisition, Airport Manager Mark Germanowski has said. The state reimburses the city an additional 2 1/2 percent.

Germanowski told the subcommittee that the total cost to the city will be about $100,000 after all of the purchases and reimbursements come through the reimbursement program. The finance subcommittee had voted to recommend that the full council approve the measure.

Inflation in construction, fuel and land prices has driven the total estimate for the airport's runway expansion and facilities upgrade from $25 million in June 2005 to $40 million as of April. Most of that funding will come from the FAA.

Lights, runway work planned

City officials want to extend the airport's runway by 1,000 feet and install a new lighting system. Under FAA safety regulations, there must be a minimum of 1,000 feet of safety area at each end of the runway. Pittsfield's Runway 26 has less than 200 feet of safety area at each end.

Besides the inadequate safety areas, the runway length and lighting system aren't sufficient for larger commercial aircraft using the airport, and when the tarmac is wet or icy, aircraft sometimes must be diverted to other airports.

Scheduled start in 2008

Germanowski has said that construction on the airport improvements is scheduled to begin in 2008 and be completed by 2011. The airport terminal is scheduled to be renovated after the runway is completed, and that project is expected to be finished by 2015.

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