In the final weeks of testimony, airport owner Thor Solberg confirmed under oath his intent to expand Solberg Airport. Testimony in the trial contesting the preservation of Solberg Airport lands by Readington Township ended Thursday, January 22nd. Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong’s ruling is expected in March.
In court on January 15th, Readington’s attorney asked airport owner Thor Solberg about the 1997 Master Plan, which calls for lengthening of the main runway from 3700 to 4900 feet. Readington’s attorney asked, “I assume it was your intent to implement the Master Plan at the time?” Thor Solberg said, “Correct.” Readington’s lawyer asked, “Is it still your plan today?” Thor Solberg said, “Correct.”
Mr. Solberg stated the current runway length imposes a severe limitation on fuel, weight, and weather conditions for jets using the airport.
Thor Solberg Confirms Suitability of Solberg as Major Airport
In testimony, Thor Solberg asserted that business aviation (use of business jets) has become an important segment of the national economy and asserted that the airport should be developed to “fulfill a need that exists – the need is there.” Mr. Solberg noted that his father settled on the location of Solberg Airport in 1939 because of the ideal geography and location of the land. Thor testified that his father’s vision for Solberg Airport was to create “multimodal transportation center for air commerce” including air, rail, and trucking.
Mr. Solberg said the ideal suitability of the land was confirmed when the Port Authority (in the 1960s) considered this location for a major jetport for the New York metropolitan area. Mr. Solberg also confirmed that in 1990, the Solbergs received notification from the FAA that Solberg Airport was designated a ‘reliever airport’ that could reduce traffic at crowded airports such as Newark International by accommodating recreational and business aircraft.
Testimony Describes Massive Development in Conjunction with Airport Expansion
Thor Solberg confirmed that expansion of the airport would include creation of a new, longer, wider paved main runway and a paved cross-winds runway. Expansion on the ‘air side’ would also include taxiways, additional roads, and tie-down areas, while expansion on the ‘land side’ would include hundreds of thousands of square feet of hangars, administrative buildings, maintenance buildings, access roads, and fuel depots.
Cessation of Legal Actions May Clear The Way For Expansion
In 2006, Readington residents approved a $21M bond to fund the acquisition of property surrounding the airport. Expansion of the airport has been blocked since, pending resolution of legal actions regarding Readington’s ability to acquire the property. Both the Township and the Solbergs have the right of appeal of Judge Armstrong’s decision to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
According to Thor Solberg’s testimony, opposition by Readington residents and the Township Committee has prevented the airport from expanding. Citizens for Readington is concerned, based on statements made during their campaign, that Township Committeemen John Broten and Sam Tropello will move to stop further appeals and clear the way for airport expansion.