Boston could be home to new ‘helistop’ as soon as September

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BOSTON — One of the potential fruits of General Electric’s deal to move to Boston – a full heliport – could be established in Boston and a state official on Monday said a temporary helistop could be set up as soon as September.

The deal between the state, Boston and GE called for coordination between the city and state to facilitate a “new public helipad” in Boston, subject to Federal Aviation Administration approval.

State Aeronautics Director Jeffrey DeCarlo told transportation officials Monday that discussions about returning a helicopter facility to Boston had been ongoing since at least August, well before GE decided to move its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn.

Logan Airport has a helipad, as do some private businesses – including the Boston Globe, WBZ and major hospitals – and until the late 1990s Boston had helicopter facilities at Nashua Street and on Fargo Street, the current site of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, according to a presentation to transportation overseers.

DeCarlo likened a helistop to a bus stop, while a heliport is a more full-service operation similar to a bus station. He said establishing a temporary helistop by September is “doable,” but declined to say where it might go.

“We do not have a site that I can report at this time,” DeCarlo told transportation officials on Monday. The plan would then be to gather a Boston Heliport Advisory Group to make recommendations about a permanent site for a heliport, according to DeCarlo’s presentation.

DeCarlo said there’s a “possibility” that the facilities “could pay for themselves.”

One member of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors pushed back against the notion that any aspect of a helipad should be publicly subsidized.

“If there is this compelling need, notwithstanding Logan, why would we not go into such an operation looking to recoup all of our costs?” said Robert Moylan, the former public works commissioner for Worcester. He said, “I don’t know why we would be looking to subsidize a heliport in any way, shape or form.”

In response, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack noted that roads and public transit are subsidized.

Moylan suggested Boston, where the international manufacturing company will set up shop, could consider “making us whole in this endeavor.”

Pollack said helicopters using the facility would not be for sightseeing.

“This would not be for helicopter tours,” Pollack said.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service