After years of planning and months of construction, the final touches were added to the newly updated runway at Marshfield Airport (GHG) last week, bringing it up-to-date with current Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) safety and design standards. The airport re-opened on June 6th after a three month construction closure.
Plans for the much anticipated safety improvements began more than a decade ago, making their way through meetings and hearings on the state, local and federal level. The project evolved over time to include extensive environmental mitigation measures including the creation of 2.0 acres of new wetlands, dredging a creek that abuts the airport to restore water flow and remove invasive species, permanently protecting the development of turtle nesting habitats that protected Eastern Box Turtles during construction.
In addition, the removal of vegetative obstructions in the approach and transition areas created an additional 70 acres of scrub-shrub habitat, the preferred habitat for this species across the airport, which will be maintained in this transitional ecotype in perpetuity, again providing a benefit to the turtles. As a final piece of the turtle habitat enhancements, over 100 acres of box turtle habitat was deeded to MA Audubon for permanent protection, in total effectively protecting and managing over 175 acres of habitat for the eastern box turtle. The newly constructed wetlands were specifically designed to mimic the existing wetland habitat at the airport and provide a high degree of wildlife habitat functionality in addition to flood storage.
“It has been a monumental effort on all fronts,” said Keith Douglass, president, Shoreline Aviation. “There were many, many parties involved. The Airport Commission and airport management team worked very hard to accommodate voices on all sides and to execute work in a manner that addressed airport safety and at the same time was sensitive to the community and to the environment. We’re really proud of the work that was done.”
Indeed the project created the opportunity to shift the runway 190 feet to the west, a move that was made in large part to accommodate wetlands concerns, but will also result in a reduction in noise from planes flying over the Fieldston neighborhood. In particular, aircraft departing over the beach will be higher over the houses in the beach neighborhoods and slightly higher when landing over the beach. The project also included the dredging and restoration of Bass Creek, an endeavor long desired by Marshfield officials and residents alike.
Funded in large part by FAA and MADOT/ Aeronautics grants, the $15.34 million construction project was executed over the course of eleven months and called for the closing of the airport for several months while excavation and paving were completed.
“Most of the aircraft typically based in Marshfield were relocated to other area airports during the course of construction” said David Dinneen, airport manager, “Those planes have now returned and everyone is excited to be back. Pilot feedback has been positive. The new Precision Approach Path Indicator Lights (PAPIs), wider and longer runway and other improvements have significantly increased safety for airport users and the community”.
The newly paved runway replaces the original 3,000-by-75 foot stretch with a 3,900-by-100 foot runway which includes 300’ safety buffers at each end. Using the new declared distances, the runway will provide 3,600 feet for takeoff and 3,300 feet for landing.
Taxiways were also widened from 30 to 35 feet to meet with today’s FAA design standards. The installation of improved Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lighting systems, one of the final project updates completed just last week, will provide pilots with better visual guidelines for day and night operations. PAPI lights provide visual guidance which tells pilots whether they are too high, too low or right on glide path for landing.
Shoreline Aviation vice president Ann Pollard acknowledged the strong support of the Town of Marshfield as well as FAA, MADOT Aeronautics and our state and federal legislators with heartfelt thanks, “We couldn’t have done it without the support, dedication and vision of all involved. The project certainly had its fair share of challenges, but the end result, a much safer airport for the flying public and the community, made it all worthwhile.”
Added Douglass, “Providing a safer runway will positively impact all who use it—and strengthen the many ways we’re able to serve the community. We’re thrilled to have the project completed and have the airport ready to serve the public once more. ”
The runway was completed on time and below budget thanks to Lawrence-Lynch, general contractor for the project!