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Pittsfield Airport Project Moving Along in Second Year

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Construction workers are moving about 8,000 cubic yards of earth each day and are expected to up that number to 12,000 in the spring. The Crowne Plaza can be seen in the distance.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Work on the airport's runway is plugging along after more than a decade of planning and permitting.

Initially talked about in 1998, the project is in its second year and aiming for an early 2013 completion. The area of the project's second phase is teeming with activity as workers move about more than a million cubic yards of earth.

"We're approximately a third of the way through the project," Airport Manager Mark Germanowski said on Tuesday while overlooking the quarter-mile extension that is being excavated. "These guys can really move earth."

About 25 workers are on site every day digging and blasting to clear a 1,400-foot extension to the end of the airport's main runway. What once was a 50-foot buffer zone will be extended to 1,000 feet, along with the addition about 800 feet of runway. On the other end, about 650 feet of runway is being chopped off and extended to create another 1,000-foot buffer.

"Everything shifts and then we're building out," Germanowski said. "It's like a mining operation."

The $22 million project was broken into the two phases. Maxymillian Technologies won the bid for the first $7 million phase and is adding about 100 feet to each side of the runway. Rifenburg Construction, based in New York, won the $14 million bid for the second phase. Phase one is currently 85 percent complete and waiting on Rifenburg to complete its end to finish.

Above: A view from the current runway. The land will be raised to the same level to extend the runway and a safety zone at the end. Below: The sides of the runway were started in phase one and expected to be 'married' into the extension.
Rifenburg started in December and has worked through the winter. The project looked as if it would be delayed because of a wet summer. However, a mild winter has allowed the company to move about 8,000 yards of earth each day.

The process includes subterranean blasting followed by the excavation of the soil to build up what was just wooded area.

"The work we're doing is really safety improvements," Germanoski said.

While work is plugging along, the company is expected to add about a third more workers this spring. The goal is to move about 12,000 yards of each a day, Germanowski said.

All that earth and crushed rocks will be used onsite to level the entire area.

Currently the blasting is ahead of schedule and has been put on hold for the last two weeks. It start up again early next week.

The TNT explosions are being performed by Maine Drilling and Blasting and is expected to resume next week, much to some of the neighbors' chagrin.

"It's unfortunate but we can't do the project without social impacts," Germanowski said of recent complaints. "They try to do the blast at the same time every day."

The second phase is expected to be mostly complete by November. It is about 15 percent complete now, with Maxymillian "marrying" phase one into Rifenburg's work. The final touches, such as lighting and electrical, should be completed in early 2013.

The massive project took more than a decade to finally break ground in 2010 and is being funded with about $13.5 million from the state Department of Transportation, about $6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and about $3 million from the city.

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