State signs agreement to acquire Solberg Airport
Meets local goal to keep open space preserved
and make necessary safety improvements without
lengthening runway or costing local property taxpayers
Transportation Commissioner James P. Fox announced today that the state has signed an agreement to purchase Solberg Airport in Readington for up to $22 million. The agreement allows necessary safety improvements to be made and existing open space to be preserved, while keeping the facility open to only small aircraft as a key component in maintaining the capacity of New Jersey’s system of public use airports.
“Local residents have expressed their desire to preserve the open space and not to extend the runway. We agree. This action accomplishes both goals while saving the town from the financial burden of acquiring the property itself,” said Fox.
Fox said the acquisition ensures that necessary safety upgrades will be made while ruling out any lengthening of the existing 3,700-foot runway.
“I want to assure local residents that a policy decision has been made to keep the runway at its current length, which guarantees Solberg Airport will continue to serve small general aviation needs and precludes air cargo and other large aircraft,” said Fox.
Fox said there are conditions at the airport that do not meet current Federal Aviation Administration standards. The existing runway needs to be rebuilt at its existing length, aircraft parking areas need to be moved away from operational areas and proper runway-taxiway separations must be put in place.
The Solberg Airport is a 745-acre facility, approximately 200 acres of which are used for farming. Fox said the state intends to preserve those 200 acres as open space.
“This agreement is another example of the McGreevey administration’s commitment to smart growth by preserving open space where it exists and preventing against possible future development,” said Fox.
Preserving the system of public use airports throughout the state was a factor in the decision to acquire Solberg Airport. Of 49 public use airports in New Jersey, 29 are privately owned. Of the privately owned facilities, seven are currently up for sale by their owners.
“The future of many of the facilities that are up for sale is uncertain. Unless the state moves to preserve our key airports, of which Solberg is one, New Jersey will be left without an adequate system for the future,” Fox said, while noting that 50 airports have been lost in the state since the end of World War II.
The agreement to purchase is contingent on the federal government agreeing to pay for 90 percent of the final sale price. If federal funding cannot be secured by December 2003, the agreement can be voided.
Fox said there is precedent for the state to acquire a privately owned airport. Currently, the state owns Greenwood Lake Airport in Passaic County.
“We feel this a good compromise among competing interests. Readington gets to preserve the airport and the open space, the state preserves a valuable aviation facility and needed safety improvements will be made without saddling local taxpayers,” Fox said.