After more than a decade of planning, a groundbreaking ceremony held earlier this month and attended by MassDOT Aeronautics Division Administrator Christopher Willenborg, State Senator Robert Hedlund, Representative James Cantwell, as well as other state, local and airport officials, signaled the launch of the Marshfield Airport Safety Improvement Project. The long awaited project, which calls for much needed upgrades to meet with current Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) standards, is finally underway!
While the entire 30-year-old runway will be repaved, widened, and shifted, the project will not affect intended use of the airport. Changes being made will bring the airport into compliance with FAA standards now in place for all similar facilities and are intended to make the runway safer for those who already use it.
The runway will be widened from 75 to 100 feet and lengthened by 300 feet. Additionally, 300-foot safety buffers will be added at each end of the runway. Taxiways will also be widened from 30 to 35 feet to meet with FAA regulations. New runway and taxiway lighting will also be installed. “This project will update a runway that was constructed in 1968 to current FAA safety and design standards” said airport manager David Dinneen.
Another key safety component is the addition of improved Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lighting systems for Runway 24 (this system is already in place for Runway 06), giving pilots clearer visual guidance on the descent path.
The project also created the opportunity to shift the runway somewhat - 190 feet to the west - which will reduce noise from planes flying over the Fieldston neighborhood in addition to accommodating wetlands concerns.
Indeed the project, which carefully follows Department of Environmental Protection Wetland laws as well as the requirements of many other agencies, will result in the creation of 2.9 acres of new wetlands and new turtle nesting and overwintering habitat. A portion of the adjacent Bass Creek will also be dredged to help alleviate flooding problems caused by overgrown marsh grass and silt accumulation.
As explained by Dineen, the airport area is also home to about 25 Eastern Box turtles that will be carefully protected during construction. According to Dinneen, turtles have been tracked for over a year in advance of the project. Four new turtle nesting habitats will be created to protect the vulnerable species.
The $15.3 million safety improvement project started roughly a decade ago and has gone through numerous rounds of hearings and permits at all levels of government. The state will bear a relatively small portion of the cost, $1.4 million, with the town of Marshfield contributing $200,000 (as per a 2011 town meeting vote). The federal government and the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) will cover the lion’s share, picking up the remaining $11.3 million of the tab (about 90 percent of the total budget).
All told, the construction portion of the project is expected to be fully completed in 275 workdays—just under a full year. While there may be weather related delays and work may be halted entirely at times during winter months, inconvenience will kept to a minimum. Airport officials will provide updates as the project progresses, including potential impacts on area residents as a result of construction activities.
During the early tree-clearing phase of the project, there will be heavy truck traffic along the surrounding roads for approximately 60 days. To minimize nuisance to residents, all construction will be done during normal business hours, usually 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The end result, officials and airport regulars agree, will be well worth the wait and temporary inconvenience. Said Keith Douglass, President, Shoreline Aviation, “The many benefits the airport provides to the community of Marshfield will only be strengthened by these improvements. We’re thrilled to have the project underway.”
Not only will the revamped airport be safer for its users and the surrounding community, but the project will also create approximately 140 construction related jobs in the local economy, resulting in an estimated $6.4 million in payrolls.