By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Extending the runway at Tupelo Regional Airport won’t begin until 2011 or 2012, but that will give airport officials, city leaders and the community more time to look at options.
At a board meeting of the Tupelo Airport Authority on Tuesday, an engineer with the firm studying the project said the proposed 1,000-foot extension of the runway has three choices:
– Adding 500 feet to both the north and south ends of the runway;
– Adding 400 feet to the north and 600 to the south; or
– Adding 600 feet to the north end and 400 feet to the south end.
“The bottom line,” said Ken Gilbert of Neel-Schaffer, “you would not have to close West Jackson Street Extended” with any of these options.
Opponents of the extension of the runway argued against the possibility that the road would have to be closed to accommodate the move. They said a major east-west corridor through the city would be eliminated.
However, that plan was when airport officials were looking only at an extension to the north end of the runway. Neel-Schaffer was asked in February to look into the possibilities of extending the runway without interfering with West Jackson Extended traffic.
Gilbert said he and an official with the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta drew an imaginary runway, using available information about obstructions on the approaches to the airport.
Gilbert said the preliminary results with adding 500 feet to both ends were “encouraging.”
“For the approach from the north, only two or three trees located in the Buffalo Park would have to be removed. For the south approach, obstructions were not found to exist and reasons for not extending to the south could not be found.”
However, Gilbert noted that information about the area to the south was old, and the FAA would have to conduct another study that could cost up to $60,000.
In addition, the existence of a BancorpSouth bank and a city fire station on airport property in the area could be problematic if the airport decides to extend to the south and if the FAA would require moving the buildings.
In addition, moving airport equipment located at the south end would also cost up to $500,000.
Also presented by the FAA was moving a key piece of equipment, called a localizer, to the north, inside the Buffalo Park. That plan involved the third option of adding 600 feet to the north and 400 feet to the south.
But additional studies – and costs – might make this option prohibitive.