TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Airport located off Route 530 in Berkeley Township has undergone numerous improvements since first being constructed in the 1960s.
However, it’s focus remains the same, according to Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.
“The Ocean County Airport helps meet the aviation needs of the County and also serves as a hub for public safety providing a location at various times for aircraft for agencies like the state Forest Fire Service, the military, and state police to name a few.
“We continue to make improvements to this facility because it’s a valuable asset to our County and our residents,” said Vicari, who serves as liaison to the airport.
While the County completes work on a new eight-unit t-hanger building at the airport, it is already reviewing the future needs of the airport unveiling improvement plans during a meeting of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Recently completed improvements include the second phase of obstruction removal, helipad lighting, and runway lighting. In addition, future projects include another 12-bay t-hanger building, apron expansion and rehabilitation and replacement of the rotating beacon.
“This is part of a Airport Capital Improvement Program that extends to 2024,” Vicari said.
He noted that an upcoming project includes rehabilitating most of the length of the main runway which is about 1 mile long. The project, expected to begin next spring and take 31 days to complete, costs about $3.2 million and the County has been approved for grants totaling $3 million.
“The Federal Aviation Administration recommends resurfacing runways every 20 years,” Vicari said.
Vicari noted that most of the work done at the airport is done with Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Transportation grants.
“Since 1990, the total cost of upgrades and improvement projects at the airport was $33,342,450,” Vicari said. “We received $27,199,133 in FAA and state Department of Transportation Grants, reducing the county’s contribution to $6.1 million.”
Another example, the County recently completed improvements to the main runway’s lighting system with mostly grant money.
“We applied for federal funding for 90 percent of the cost of the replacement project and for state funding for five percent of the total cost,” Vicari said.
The project cost was about $810,00 and the design work, funded also by federal and state grants was completed earlier in June.
“The lighting improvements for the main runway improves safety for pilots coming into and leaving the airport,” Vicari said. “Whether it’s for public safety or to help our economic efforts, the Ocean County Airport is an important facility providing an integral service in Ocean County.”
Vicari noted the new runway lighting system replaced a system that was more than 20 years old and had been scheduled for replacement. The project included the installation of high intensity runway/threshold edge lights and high intensity flush mounted runway edge lights.
Ocean County also completed in 2014 the Crosswind Runway at the airport – the first runway built in New Jersey in 30 years.
The County received more than $7.7 million in grants from the FAA and the New Jersey Department of Transportation to construct the project.
That project brought significant improvements to the airpark at a minimal cost to the County.
“The crosswind runway which is about 3,400 feet provides a safer landing alternative for smaller aircraft during adverse wind conditions,” Vicari said. “The safety of the pilots using the airpark is of the utmost importance to this Board.”
“All of the improvements, whether it be the new hangers, lighting upgrades or the crosswind runway, all of these are consistent with the Airport Capital Improvement Program and the Pinelands Memorandum of Agreement,” Vicari said. “There are restrictions on development and land use by virtue of the airport’s location within a Pinelands Preservation Area and a Pinelands Forest Area.
“It’s important to the County that we act as a good neighbor and make certain whatever we do at the airport is consistent with its location,” he said. “We working in partnership with the fixed base operator and a host of other agencies to make sure the facility meets all regulations, is up to date and serves the public properly.”
The Ocean County Airport covers 822 acres of the 955 acre Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township. It’s fixed base operator Ocean Aire offers complete support services for general and corporate aircraft.
“The airport helps with our tourism efforts providing a premiere space for smaller planes for our visitors and residents,” Vicari said. “It also provides a central location for a host of public safety services.”