After years of planning – and battles over the need for it – a crosswinds runway at Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township is nearing reality.
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders is poised to award the bid for construction of the runway at next Wednesday’s meeting, the board announced Tuesday at its preboard meeting in Toms River.
The contract, for $5,806,037.50, is to be awarded to C.J. Hesse of Atlantic Highlands, $4 million of which is being funded by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently the airpark, which has been in operation since the 1960s, has a single runway. For pilots landing small planes, when the winds are blowing perpendicular to the runway -- across it instead of the same direction as the runway -- landings become very tricky, according to aviation experts. A crosswinds runway allows for a safer landing in those situations.
It's something the county has been seeking since the late 1960s, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari has said.
Within the last year, the county has received support from the FAA and from the state Department of Transportation on the need for the runway, as well as from township officials in Berkeley.
But not everyone is in favor of the project. The Pinelands Alliance has criticized the project and fought it, saying the county is simply looking to expand the airport and take in more business, a charge the freeholders have rejected.