Barnes celebrates second phase of runway overhaul
WESTFIELD – The second phase of the Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport
runway construction was celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 30.
The more than $8 million project will consist of a complete aircraft parking ramp renovation that will expand the current parking footprint, improve storm water drainage, install a new oil-water separator and improve area and security lighting.
Stantec and The Lane Construction Corp. are the designer and builders for the project.
“It’s going to solidify our position here at the 104th as the premier air defense location for the first Air Force,” Col. James Keefe said. “This project is a combined effort of the Massachusetts Military Asset & Security Strategy Task Force, the state, the city of Westfield and the 104th Fighter Wing.”
The ramp area will be extended south and a snow shelf will be added to allow snow to be plowed off the aircraft parking spots. The project will also improve the storm water drainage by increasing the storm water retention pond volume.
A new oil-water separator will be installed to prevent the discharge of hazardous substances into the environment. Lighting will also be upgraded to provide complete coverage during night operations to improve security and safety for the aircraft and personnel.
Keefe stated that the Air National Guard would contribute $2.75 million, the Massachusetts Bond Bill $5.35 million. The city is sponsoring and executing the work to reconstruct the ramp. He said the project helps the 104th “strategically, operationally and tactically.” The Fighter Wing is ready “24/7, 365 days a year” to scramble for alert missions.
“With the recent resurgence of terrorist threats to homeland, the 104th is on the front line of defense for the homeland and this project is going to ensure our longevity to make sure we can do that mission,” Keefe added.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice said, “We always have to be improving, we always have to be stepping forward and we always have to be on the front edge of all the pieces; not only the technology inside the aircraft and the training for all the people here that are part of the unit, but also we have to be on the front edge of our facilities. Because, if we let them languish at all, they deteriorate very quickly.”
Last year, the 28-year-old runway was replaced after the $14 million cost of the project was offset by an $8.7 million Federal Aviation Administration grant for runway construction, $4.6 million from the U.S. Department of Defense and by additional state and local monies.
“In this case, with our great emphasis of environmental protection and the [Barnes] aquifer that sits underneath us, putting a concrete ramp rather than a asphalt ramp gives us a lot more longevity, a lot more durability and it’s ecologically friendly. It’s a win-win all the way around,” Rice said.
He added, “It’s pretty amazing what we can do when we work together.”
Rice commented, “As far as efficiency, effectiveness and the pointy end of the spear to defend the United States, this base, this location, this installation is number one in the country.”