The long-planned crosswind runway at Ocean County Airport in Berkeley Township is now completed, making the airport safer for pilots and marking a historic milestone in New Jersey aviation history.
“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.”
The new runway is situated perpendicular to the 6,000 foot main runway and will serve as an alternative for pilots to access during periods of strong crosswinds that would make landing otherwise unsafe. The crosswind runway, measuring 3,400 feet, is significantly smaller than the main runway.
The completion of the runway will also mark the return of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to the airport. The forest fire service pulled out of the airport several years ago, county officials have said, because of the runway safety issue.
Officials say a crosswind runway has been planned for the airport since it opened in 1968, but a number of factors made it difficult for such a project to be completed. For starters, a runway comes with a multi-million dollar price tag. And complicating things is the airport’s location in the Pinelands Preservation Area, where development is restricted by law and a multitude of environmental considerations must be made before any type of project gets off the ground.
The county overcame both obstacles by forging partnerships with other government agencies, officials say. The Federal Aviation Administration picked up 90 percent of the runway’s $8.2 million construction cost, with the state Department of Transportation footing the bill for the majority of the remaining 10 percent.
To satisfy the Pinelands Commission and secure a permit to build the runway, county officials pledged to monitor and protect species including the northern pine snake, pine barrens tree frog, barred owl and grasshopper sparrow, among other creatures. The county also undertook stormwater management projects at the airport and agreed to limit the months of construction and install snake exclusion fences and other features to protect wildlife.
“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.
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.
The airpark is located on 420 acres in Berkeley Township about five miles west of Toms River. It can accommodate various aircraft, including private airplanes, small corporate jets, the state Forest Fire Service planes, the Civil Air Patrol and Emergency Services aircraft.