PITTSFIELD -- The reopening of South Mountain Road to traffic, expected by Dec. 1, has now been pushed back to the end of the month, according to city officials.

A section of the road was blocked off 16 months ago due to the nearly complete Pittsfield Municipal Airport expansion.

Originally, South Mountain Road was to be ready as early as Thanksgiving -- or Dec. 1 at the latest -- but airport manager Mark Germanowski said weather delays earlier this fall pushed back the timetable.

"If the weather cooperates, the project will be substantially complete by year's end," he said.

The $22.5 million airport project necessitated moving to the north a 2,100-foot section of South Mountain between the new and former entrances to Wild Acres Park. 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.

Crews in November completed the paving the new section of road and repaving the rest of South Mountain in front of three homes west of the relocated portion. However, work remains before the motorists can travel the entire thoroughfare, Germanowski said.

"I have some concerns that relate more to the airport work than the road itself," he said. "We're still working on the fencing around the extended portion of the runway and that could interfere with the flow of traffic."

"We also have to stripe the road, among other things," he add. "We have a significant amount of work to do before we re-open the road."

South Mountain Road was closed to through traffic in mid-August 2011, signaling the start of the second and final phase of the project: The runway expansion and road relocation.

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

"Pilots say the approach is much clearer and that's a godsend for them as they can see the main runway sooner," Germanowski said. "Safety was the main reason for the expansion."

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.