BERKELEY TOWNSHIP – Ocean County officials today joined with representatives from the FAA, the state and local organizations in marking the completion of the Crosswind Runway at the Ocean County Airport, here.

“This is the first runway constructed in New Jersey since 1983,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the airport. “This runway provides a safer landing alternative for smaller aircraft during adverse wind and weather conditions.

“It is a project that we have worked on for many years and I am happy to be here today to highlight its completion and to extend my appreciation to the great partnerships that came together to make this happen,” Vicari said.

A Crosswind Runway had been planned at the airpark since it opened in 1968. With the help of substantial Federal Aviation Administration grants, and funding from the state, the County was able to construct the new runway providing for a safer airport. 

“The safety of the pilots using the airpark is of the utmost importance to the County,” Vicari said. “The airpark is used for more than just private planes. It serves an important role when it comes to public safety, and housing aircraft that are used by public safety agencies.”

While the Crosswind runway is about 3,400 feet, far shorter than the existing 6,000-foot runway, it was not an easy project to do and Ocean County faced many obstacles. 

“Ocean County Airport is located in the Pinelands Preservation Area, which has some of the strictest environmental standards anywhere,” Vicari noted. “After seven years, we worked out an agreement with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission that allowed us to move forward.”

While the regulatory process was challenging, Ocean County recognized the need to protect this unique area of New Jersey and incorporated many environmental features into the project.

“We kept our commitment to the Pinelands Commission and we believe that the environmental measures we have put into place will permanently enhance the habitat of the surrounding area,” Vicari said.

The Harrisburg Office of the Federal Aviation Administration worked with the County during the ups and downs of the regulatory process and when the Pinelands agreement was executed, the FAA immediately secured the funding necessary to start construction.

“That was a feat unto itself due to the declining federal budget,” Vicari said.

Of the $8.2 million dollar price tag, the FAA secured 90 percent of the funding for it. The New Jersey Department of Transportation was able to offset some of the local match that Ocean County was required to provide.

“We also cannot forget the assistance provided to us by the New York FAA when we started this whole process,” Vicari said. “We appreciate the help they gave us in moving through the environmental assessment process and not giving up on us.

“A big thank you also goes to our consultants and sub-consultants who worked on this project to ensure it would be approved and funding would be received,” Vicari said. “And, to our pilots, thank you for your patience. I know the wait was frustrating and there were doubts from time to time that this project would ever come to reality. But we got here and we are very proud to have worked with you.” 

Vicari noted the airport plays an important role in public safety and the new runway will help enhance that.

As an example, Vicari noted that several years ago, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service pulled out of the airport, due to the lack of a crosswind runway.

“Once the runway was nearing completion, we contacted the Fire Service and quickly negotiated their return to the airport,” Vicari said.

“Some of you may remember that a few months ago a major forest fire broke out that threatened several neighborhoods just a few miles from here. The fire grew quickly due to strong winds and the Fire Service responded immediately,” Vicari said. “Personnel from the Fire Service attended a Freeholder meeting afterwards and credited the use of the crosswind runway with helping the fire service in its efforts to save many homes from destruction.”

In addition to the new runway, in recent years, county, state and federal funds have helped pay to widen the existing runway, extend the taxiway, install a stormwater control system, construct new hangars, install a new system of signs and lights and rehabilitate the taxiways and apron.

“This airpark is an important element of the county’s transportation program,” Vicari said. “It’s essential the facilities be kept current and at up-to-date standards.”

The airpark is located on 420 acres in Berkeley Township about five miles west of Toms River. A precision approach facility, it features a 6,000 foot runway and accommodates various aircraft, including private airplanes, small corporate jets, the state Forest Fire Service planes, the Civil Air Patrol and Emergency Services aircraft.