State might back full replacement of Pittsfield Municipal Airport terminal
PITTSFIELD — The terminal at Pittsfield Municipal Airport might be replaced in several years with a new and larger building able to accommodate growing aviation interest in the city.
The aeronautics division of the state Department of Transportation has not officially committed to the project. But Gloria Bouillon, the airport's manager, said she was told this fall that the department's early reviews support constructing a new terminal, with almost all of the $4 million to $5 million cost covered by the state.
If so, the project would follow a major runway repair scheduled for next summer, most of which will be paid for with a $6.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"This airport will look like a completely new airport in three or four years," said Bouillon, who took her post last February.
Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the DOT, said the department is evaluating infrastructure needs at the airport. But she confirmed that plans for a Pittsfield project have been changing, rising from a renovation of the existing terminal, with a small addition, to something more.
In 2014, working off a master plan to help Massachusetts airports improve their administration buildings, the DOT saw the need for limited work in Pittsfield.
But since then, Goddard told The Eagle, the city's airport got a closer look. She said the property's needs, and those of the surrounding area as well, were reconsidered.
"Colleagues decided that perhaps further exploration should occur," Goddard said.
In addition to issues with the current terminal, most of which is occupied by Lyon Aviation, it has been determined that the airport needs more parking for aircraft and that one taxiway should be relocated.
No decision about backing a new terminal has been made, Goddard said, and no money was included in this fiscal year's budget for design work.
"MassDOT at this time is involved in discussions and an evaluation of factors that will come into play," Goddard said of the Pittsfield project. "But until MassDOT completes an analysis, we cannot know if a new terminal will be built. We will be taking steps and having many conversations as we approach the time when design work would begin."
Still, signs point to a new look for the city-owned 832 Tamarack Road facility.
"In the near future, after public engagement and conversations with stakeholders, MassDOT expects to move forward with improvements for Pittsfield Airport," Goddard said.
An eight-year, $22.5 million runway expansion project was completed in 2013. That lengthened the 5,000-foot main runway by 790 feet and added safety areas that brought the airport into compliance with FAA standards.
Michael Mah, a software engineer who uses the Pittsfield airport, said a new terminal is needed and will help the airport be a magnet for business activity in the Berkshires.
"It's been languishing for a decade or two," Mah said of the airport. "This is an opportunity for economic development through aviation."
The DOT's aeronautics division works to improve infrastructure not only to benefit airport customers, but to aid the regions in which they operate. DOT policy holds that airports serve as anchors for economic development.
The DOT's Statewide Airport Administration Building Program has finished three projects, in Beverly, Fitchburg and Mansfield. Another group of airports, including the one in North Adams, have had new terminal designs prepared — and projects in North Adams and Plymouth are expected to be constructed soon.
Pittsfield's airport has been on the state's list for work in the 2019 fiscal year, which starts July 1. That is when design work on a possible new Pittsfield terminal would begin, according to the DOT.
Bouillon said she has received encouragement from the state, with a DOT official telling her, "We're going to look at getting you a brand new terminal."
"It's very exciting, yes," Bouillon said. "They want to keep us in line for that funding. To be able to participate in this is very, very rare nationally."
She said the earlier plan for a rehab was dropped when the DOT recognized the limits of the current terminal.
"It's just not efficient for what our current needs are," Bouillon said.
Meantime, Bouillon is busy managing plans for next year's runway work, as well as a solar energy installation on the property. She will also be working next year with members of the Pittsfield Municipal Airport Commission on a new master plan for the airport.
As The Eagle has reported, activity at the airport has been surging. Bouillon said business has grown 40 percent in the past three years, half of that in the past 12 months.
As of this week, there were nearly 30 aircraft on a waiting list for hangar space.
If the airport was able to accommodate all that market interest, Bouillon said, the new accounts would generate $70,000 in yearly revenue.
If the terminal replacement project moves forward, the state would pay 95 percent of the cost, Bouillon said, with a 5 percent local share.
It isn't yet known where a new terminal would be built, but one option is to the west of the existing building.
Next year, J.H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield will oversee the runway repaving project. Work is expected to begin in April and will force the airport to close or restrict landings for parts of the spring and summer.
The FAA grant covers 90 percent of the work. The rest of the cost will be split by the city and DOT, with each kicking in $300,000.
Larry Parnass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.
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