Airport runway rehab takes off

WESTFIELD – The engineering consultant for Barnes Regional Airport said the firm will begin the initial phase of rehabilitating the airport’s main runway.
Jeff Dubois of Stantec, an international engineering and environmental consulting firm, said Thursday night at the Airport Commission meeting that work surveying the airport’s main runway, 2-20, is set to begin.
The firm was given a notice to proceed after Airport Manager Brian Barnes and City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley presented details of a $1.1 million bond to a joint session of the City Council Finance Committee and Legislative & Ordinance Committee Tuesday night.
Both committees voted to give positive recommendation for the appropriation at the Council’s Feb. 20 session. Barnes and Daley also presented the Finance Committee with information on a $300,000 free cash appropriation to the airport.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik submitted the two funding requests to the Council in support of the runway project, which has a projected cost of $20.66 million, and the on-going noise mitigation project.
Both projects are being funding through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which requires communities to develop engineering plans for projects before releasing federal dollars. The state also contributes funding through the Massachusetts Aeronautic Commission of the state Department of Transportation
Daley said the $300,000 free cash appropriation will fund the engineering work needed for the next phase of the noise mitigation work
The noise mitigation program addresses noise related to the presence of the F-15 fighters that were assigned to the Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing.
The Air Force conducted a noise impact study before and during the transition to the F-15s, which are a supersonic, air superiority platform, and which take off with the assistance of afterburners.
The noise impact study identified two zones of objectionable noise created by the fighters during take-off and landing operations. Those zones were based on the noise study data used to create the noise mitigation plan.
One zone, defining areas around the airport where noise was in the 70 decibel range, is identified as the acquisition zone where residents have the option of selling their homes which will be demolished, or have the option to have their homes treated for noise abatement. Those opting to sell their property will be given relocation assistance.
The second zone is the abatement zone based on readings of 65 dB. Homes in that area are not subject to acquisition, but do qualify for improvements, replacement of doors and windows and other modifications to reduce the noise level within the structure.
Daley said the city will be reimbursed for the up-front engineering expenses when the federal funds are released next fall for the sound mitigation work.
The runway rehabilitation work involved a number of funding sources, including the Department of Defense, the state, as well as the FAA which will contribute $10 million to the project. The city’s share is set at 2 1/2 percent of the FAA grant, in this case $250,000.
Barnes said Thursday night that the FAA is paying for only 7,000 feet of the runway project and that the military and state, which needs a 9,000-foot-long runway for the F-15 fighters station at the Air National Guard base, is paying about $11 million for the additional work.
Daley said that $500,000 of the $1.1 million bond will be used for engineering efforts, and that the remaining $600,000 will fund a five-year, rolling capital improvement plan.
“Rolling that bond over every five years will fund a continuous capital improvement program, which has never been done before at the airport,” Daley said. “We’ll do it consistently so they can replace equipment, such as plows, on a planned schedule.”

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