PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Airport officials can see the light at the end of the runway.
Airport Manager Mark Germanowski is calling the massive $22.5 million runway safety project "substantially complete" with loose ends being tied early next year.
Currently, the airport is quickly approaching a "winter shut down" of work and will return in the spring to finalize the undertaking. For the last month, the number of workers have dwindled from its peak of 40 to just a "skeletal crew."
"For all intents and purposes, we're all built out," Germanowski said on Monday while looking over the project.
The second phase focused on excavating and moving more than a million cubic yards of earth through the summer to create a longer runway and 1,000-foot buffers at either end. On the Barker Road side, 652 feet of runway was dug up to create the buffer there. On the South Mountain Road side, the 652 feet plus an additional 790 feet of runway way constructed and a buffer built.
Business leaders and officials have frequently touted the airport reconstruction as a significant investment in the local economy, but Germanowski said the project has a more important aspect.
"It was all about safety and people forget that," he said. "We didn't do this for economic development."
South Mountain Road was rebuilt to circumnavigate the new area. Airport officials are just awaiting perimeter fencing before that road reopens. (Update: The road was scheduled to open on Thursday, Dec. 19.)
When the ground freezes, the poles for obstruction lights on the South Mountain Road side, which mark trees on the sides of the runway, will be placed into the ground. When work begins in the spring, the electrical infrastructure for those will be installed.
Once the grass grows to stabilize the banks, workers will return to inspect the new drainage systems and make any additional repairs. Airport officials will also create a punch list for completion and then it will just be cleaning up. Germanowski is expecting less than a month's worth of work will be required as long as all permitting goes well.
"It's very small items," he said. "I wouldn't even say a month."
Safety areas were expanded at both ends of the runway.
Germanowski said he doesn't have the final costs but so far everything has been "on budget" and "on time." Workers did lose a total of three weeks of time because of rain during this summer, he said.
The first $7 million phase added about 100 feet to each side of the runway. The second phase, which was $14 million, covered the majority of the work. Weather delayed the first phase but workers picked up time by working through the winter.
"About every fourth day we got rain," Germanowski said.
However, the project did not come without complaints from the neighbors. During construction, neighbors complained of loud noises from the blasting of rocks, dust flying in the air, roads covered in clay, the days and hours of construction, and water runoff.
Germanowski acknowledged that there can be negative effects during the construction of such a large project but said it complied with all of the permits.
The project, which was first pursued in 1998, is being paid for by $13.5 million in state Department of Transportation funds, $6 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds and $3 million from the city. The FAA also contributed $4 million previously for land acquisition.
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