Orange Municipal Airport receives more grant money than expected

  • Afternoon sunlight gleams off the runway at the Orange Municipal Airport. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 8/27/2020 1:43:46 PM
Modified: 8/27/2020 1:43:40 PM

ORANGE — Though it had expected to receive a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, the Orange Municipal Airport recently received even better news: the grant will in fact be for $5.3 million, allowing for much-needed infrastructure improvements.

Airport Manager Leonard Bedaw said the grant will be used to reconstruct one of the airport’s runways, install new airfield lights and signs, paint pavement markings, add grooving to runways and clear 6 acres of trees.

Construction is expected to begin in September, Bedaw said. A pre-construction meeting will be held Thursday with representatives from the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the contractor.

“We should be starting very soon,” he said.

Bedaw explained Runway 1-19, the one to be reconstructed, is 5,001 feet long and 75 feet wide because most corporate aircraft are required to have at least 5,000 feet of runway length to land. The other, shorter runway is 4,801 feet long by 75 feet wide.

According to Bedaw, Orange Municipal Airport has the only 5,000-foot runway in the region. The nearest comparable ones are at Laurence G. Hanscom Field in Bedford, Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport outside of Springfield, Pittsfield Municipal Airport, and Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Keene, N.H. He said the runway’s length is one of Orange’s selling points to attract corporate industry and job creation.

Given that Runway 1-19 was last reconstructed in 1995 and the average lifespan of asphalt is about 20 years, Bedaw said, the runway is due for maintenance.

The project will be funded entirely by the federal government, with no state or local match required. Bedaw, who has worked at the airport since 1991, said without this grant the reconstruction would likely have had to wait another five years because that is how long it would have taken to save up for the estimated local share of a grant.

“I was elated,” he said of receiving the funding. “It’s one of the most important things that I’ve done, probably, since I’ve been here.”

Bedaw said the airport’s signs and runway edge lighting will be upgraded to LED. New markings will be painted on the runways and grooving will be added to provide channels for water to escape and help with tire friction. Bedaw mentioned there is also a plan to replace a failed culvert on the south access road.

The 6 acres of trees to the south of the airport, Bedaw explained, obstruct an aircraft’s approach. The clearing is being done in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Highway Division.

Reach Domenic Poli at: 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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