PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Municipal Airport's $22.5 million expansion project is five months away from completion, an airport official said on Monday.
The work that began nearly two years ago is ahead of schedule and within budget, according to airport manager Mark Germanowski.
"When you look at the extended runway, lighting and new section of South Mountain Road, we expect substantial completion by Dec. 1 -- weather permitting," Germanowski said.
Work now includes moving a roughly 2,100-foot section of South Mountain Road, between the new and former entrances to Wild Acres Park, to the north. Last August, the city blocked off that part of South Mountain to through traffic.
The road's relocation will allow for the main 5,000-foot runway to be extended north by 790 feet. In addition, another 1,000-foot safety area is being installed on each end of the runway.
Germanowski said the lengthened runway is scheduled to be paved in mid-August and could be ready for use later in the month.
As for South Mountain Road, it will remain closed to through traffic until about Thanksgiving.
"The relocation of the road is the last major component, so we're talking late November -- and that's a very fluid situation," Germanowski said.
Initially, the work on South Mountain Road was expected to wrap up by Oct. 1. However, it started late because of a delay in receiving federal funds for the project. In addition, workers encountered more rock than anticipated, requiring more blasting of the ledge and boulders. The blasting, which started in mid-January, has gradually diminished and should be done by month's end, according to Germanowski.
Early on, the blasting left several homeowners -- especially those closest to the work zone -- shaken and annoyed.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, who represents the airport area, is seeking a neighborhood meeting at the end of the month.
"There are about a dozen homes most impacted by this project, and it's from them I get occasional phone calls about the project," Lothrop said.
The first half of the project involved the replication of 5.7 acres of wetlands and a body of water encompassing one-tenth of an acre. Approximately 120 acres of trees were removed because the Federal Aviation Administration considered them an air traffic obstruction.
However, the leveled landscape created a visual void that shocked those living near the airport.
"It looks really ugly now," Lothrop said. "But once the new landscaping is put in, it will start to look better over time."
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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