WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Baker joined Congressman Richard Neal and other state and local officials at Barnes Air National Guard Base to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new main gate and a ribbon cutting for a new taxiway.

Taxiway Sierra is a $4.7 million allocation from the Commonwealth’s 2014 Military Bond Bill authorization. It was used to expand the airport’s mobility, parking capacity, and enhance its operational capabilities. The new taxiway at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport means fewer delays, and a huge step up in air traffic, 80 percent now which is commercial planes.

“Massachusetts is proud to be the home of the 104th Fighter Wing, whose dedicated airmen and women provide security from its strategic location in Westfield for the entire northeast region,” said Governor Baker. “Our administration is pleased to support the new taxiway at Barnes Air National Guard Base, helping enhance the capabilities of this key installation and demonstrating our continued commitment to protecting and expanding its mission.”

These base advancements are thanks to collaborative efforts to continue the development of our national defense, and improve security at a time when threats to military bases have increased.

“Time and again this base has proven its value, its worth. And I think the community has been welcoming which is another big part I think of our effort,” said Congressman Richard Neal.

Proposals for these base-improvement projects were made in 2007. The current main gate dates back to 1950 and Tuesday’s groundbreaking marks the start of construction that’s anticipated to be completed by next spring. The hope is that these upgrades make the base a welcome space for an F35 in the near future.