Tuesday November 6, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Residents near the Pittsfield Municipal Airport should expect "unusual" construction noise today and Wednesday, city officials said on Monday.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- weather permitting -- specialized milling machines will be cutting grooves in the new runway extension paved with asphalt in mid-August, according to the Airport Commission. The airport is undergoing a $22.5 million expansion.

In a brief statement, the Commission said neighbors will experience a sustained and "unusual" noise caused by the milling process.

The city's advanced warning pleases Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, whose ward includes the airfield.

"We're trying to be sensitive to residents and keep them informed of what's going on," Lothrop said.

Airport officials vowed to improve its communication with residents after they were unknowingly subjected to construction noise and activity on July 4. During a community update meeting July 26, the airport neighbors were irate the city failed to notify them that the project's general contractor was working on Independence Day. The airport neighbors said the noise from the construction ruined their outdoor plans for the holiday.

The runway milling and paving is one of the last major aspects of the nearly two-year-old project airport officials have said should be "substantially completed" by Dec. 1.


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The other significant items left to finish include 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 has allowed the 5,000-foot main runway to be extended north by 790 feet. In addition, another 1,000-foot unpaved safety area is being installed on each end of the runway.

As for South Mountain Road, it's expected to remain closed to through traffic until about Thanksgiving.

Lothrop says paving the new section of road and repaving the rest of South Mountain in front of three homes west of the relocated portion should begin soon.

Warner Brothers Inc. of Sunderland, which performed the runway paving and that of South Street, will be putting down new asphalt on South Mountain, Lothrop said.

"I have been encouraged by their professionalism and quality of work," Lothrop said.

Meanwhile, Lothrop noted work has begun to plant new screening in an effort to ease the visual impact of the airport expansion.

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 also removed because the federal Aviation Administration considered them an air traffic obstruction.

The leveled landscape created a visual void that shocked those living at the airport. Airport officials had vowed to plant new, low growth vegetation, but it could take several years for the plantings to fully mature.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.