Lancaster Development Flies Through Route 747 Project

Wed September 19, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Bond Brungard



Construction activity abounds on a new east-west connection road being built into Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y.

To the east, a short line of rotating three-axle Volvo end dump trucks were taking turns as a Caterpillar excavator removed more of the hillside to make room for the four-lane connector road, which will be the new entrance into the airport.

After the dumps picked up their load, they crossed a bridge over a portion of the Catskill Aqueduct System — which runs the airport, headed by boarded-up barracks, once part of the Stewart Air Force Base — and dumped their earth into a landfill, just south of the airport terminal.

Once the load was out, it was another short trip across the airport and back in line for another few scoops in the end dumps. It was one trip after another all day long.

Construction of the 1-mi. (1.6 km), four-lane connector road is part of a two-year $50 million project to improve access to the airport, which served 300,000 passengers last year and is expected to serve as the fourth major airport for the Port Authority in the New York City metro area behind JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.

“We are going to use Stewart to take the pressure off the other three airports,” said Marc Lavorgna, a spokesman of the Port Authority.

Lavorgna said Stewart, which will be taken over by the Port Authority later this year, is especially valuable to travelers from the Hudson Valley region that have grown accustomed to bypassing JFK, LaGuardia and Newark for the regional airport.

“There are other options for services that are closer [with Stewart],” he said.

Lancaster Development in Richmondville, N.Y., west of Albany, has been contracted for the project, which is expected to be finished this December.

The project includes a new interchange off I-84, built between Maybrook and Route 17K, a rebuilt north-south thoroughfare, to be renamed Route 747 after its former name, Drury Lane.

Dominick Della Rocco, who lives in Sharon Springs, west of Albany, has been the project superintendent of Lancaster Development. He and 65 employees have had a vast array of equipment to complete the project, which has required the removal of approximately 1.3 million cu. yds. (1 million cu m) of earth and the building of four new bridges.

In addition to the 15 Volvos rolling across the airport, Caterpillar 365 and 330 model excavators, Caterpillar D5M, D6M and D8 dozers, obtained from Milton CAT in Clifton Park, N.Y. have assisted on the project.

A fleet of 20 tri-axle dumps, half owner-operated, have helped with the earth removal chores. Once the roads are widened and paved with Barber-Greene wideners and pavers, a Dynapac 530C roller was used to help finish the job.

The roadwork has been problem-free said Della Rocco and Rashid Shariff, a New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) engineer overseeing the construction.

“We’re out of traffic most of the time,” said Della Rocco.

“[Drivers] have been very patient,” added Shariff.

Most of the traffic encountered by crews during the project has been with the rebuilding of Drury Lane, soon to be Route 747. The entrance to the newly renamed route, off Route 17K, was moved approximately 600 ft. (183 m) west along 17K. From 17K, it will remain a two-lane commuter route to the new I-84 interchange for approximately a mile.

From I-84, it will widen to four lanes before forming with the new east-west connector road through the airport. But from the connector road south to Route 207, which runs between Newburgh and Goshen, where Orange County government is seated, Route 747 will return to a two lanes for another mile.

The new route is aptly named for its gateway into the international airport after the state nearly gave it a generic, non-descriptive route number.

“We just didn’t give up,” said Bill Gorton, the project’s design engineer for NYSDOT, “so we pestered them to the point where they said fine.”

Boeing 747s occasionally land and take off at Stewart. Air Force One is probably the most famous 747 jumbo to make a stop at Stewart when President George Bush visits the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Stewart began serving the public in 1990 when American Airlines added three daily flights to Chicago and Raleigh/Durham in North Carolina. The same year, United Express began offering service to Washington’s Dulles Airport and Boston’s Logan Airport.

In 1939, West Point built an airfield at Stewart for cadet aviation training, and in 1942 the field was dedicated as Wings of West Point. In 1948, Stewart Field became Stewart Air Force Base after United States Air Force became its own service branch.

In 1970, however, the base was deactivated, but C5A Galaxies, which belong to the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart as a part of the New York Air National Guard, compete for airspace with civilian commuter aircraft and large passenger jets.

Aside from a visit by Air Force One and its important passengers, some of the most famous passengers to arrive at Stewart were the 52 American hostages held by Iran from 1979 to 1981.

JetBlue now offers flights to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale from Newburgh, and U.S. Airways Express, Northwest Airways, Delta, and AirTran Airways all offer flights from Stewart.

Many subcontractors have helped Lancaster Development turn this historic airfield into a busy civilian airport.

In the Hudson Valley and nearby Catskills, E. Tetz & Sons of Middletown, N.Y., supplied the concrete and Tilcon, of Clinton Corners, N.Y., furnished the sub base material while Thalle Industries of Fishkill, N.Y., brought in the blacktop. Tri-Valley Iron of Grahamsville, N.Y., toward the heart of the Catskills, provided the rebar.

Chemung Supply, of Elimira, N.Y, provided the guide rails and Donnelly Construction, of Mechanicville, N.Y., supplied the signage and silk fences for the seeded slopes on the east-west connector road, and Straight Line Industries, of Cohoes, N.Y., will supply the traffic striping. CEG