A repaving project is underway at the airport now.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When the 2008 recession hit, the airport saw a significant decrease in users.
Its revenues were down. The number of planes housed there was down. The planes flying in and out were down.
But a few years later, the state Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the city launched a $22 million project to expand the main runway.
That project called or a massive amount of excavation and rebuilding to level out the grounds -- the airport sits on somewhat of a plateau from its surrounding areas.
The runway was extended by 1,400 feet and extended buffer zones were added at the end of each side for safety.
What that meant was that the Pittsfield Municipal Airport could not attract larger planes. Jeff DeCarlo, administrator of MassDOT's aeronautics division, said the airport is now similar in size to that in Orange County where he once would land 757s.
"This is really a super airport," DeCarlo said. "They can fly a global jet out of here."
Now, five years after that was completed, Airport Manager Gloria Bouillon says the airport struggles to keep up with the demand. There are a dozen jets based there and 39 smaller planes. That's nearly as many as the airport had at its peak.
"With the heavy jet operations, we are considered a business, corporate airport. And we've been increasing our numbers," Bouillon said, and later adding, "we've had a 40 percent growth in three years and we are at maximum capacity due to the inability to hangar an aircraft. We have a need for smaller hangars and more infrastructure to meet the demand. We have a waiting list of 30."
She said she's seen an increase in businesses looking to fly in and out, manufacturers, and colleges and universities.
With that, Boulion is hoping to continue with the growth. But, that will take more capital project in the future -- particularly hangars and a new administration building.
"We have hangars needing capital improvements. Some of our constraints is trying to develop the capital funding to better serve our tenant and meet the demand," she said.
And there is plenty of room. The airport has some 600 acres. About 32 of the acres left to be developed is proposed to be used for solar arrays, which have been cited as a major gamechanger for the airport's finances.
"It is going to be the biggest municipal airport project in Massachusetts. We are looking at around 32 acres," Bouillon said, estimating that over the course of a 30-year agreement the airport will see some $6.8 million in lease income and the city will see $6.5 million in taxes.
For years the city had been subsidizing the airport's enterprise budget. The airport, even with only a couple staff members, was costing the city more than the airport was taking in. That trend is slowly reversing, Bouillon said, with more landing fees and an increased cost for landing. The airport operates on a $270,000 budget and for the last three years, revenues have increased by $38,000.
Administrator Jeff DeCarlo praised the work that has been done.
Right now, the airport is closed for another capital project. While the main runway was extended, the secondary and the existing primary runway still had old pavement. For the next 85 days, the airport is closed for a $6.6 million renovation.
"There has been a lot of rehabilitation, a lot of cracks repaired for this runway. As a pilot, when you land on the runway you can feel each bump," Bouillon said.
The airport has put new fencing up, installed security cameras, and have begun crafting a new master plan to help guide the future growth. Next up, Bouillon said the construction of a new administration building is in line for 2021. The existing building was constructed in 1964 and is not only outdated, but the use of the airport has changed significantly since then, she said.
That project is eyed to relocate the building to make way for a new taxiway renovation. That'll help aircraft get off the airport faster.
MassDOT has shown continual support for all of those construction projects. Thmajorityy of the funds for each project had come from the FAA and MassDOT. But Bouillon said there is still a lot to do to keep up with the trends.
"The airport property is very vast so we do have the ability to expand," Bouillon said.
Bouillon gave a presentation about the airport to MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack on Tuesday. Pollack toured the airport after the briefing. She was joined by Mayor Linda Tyer, Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer, and numerous construction and airport officials.
Pollack had spent the day touring MassDOT construction sites. She started in the morning in Lanesborough, went to Hinsdale in the afternoon to celebrate a Complete Streets project completion, met with Tyer to discuss rail siting grants and visit the Intermodal Center, stopped by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to see the changes implemented there and ended the afternoon at the airport.
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