TUPELO – Tupelo Regional Airport’s runway project could get further hampered if the city reverses an earlier decision to allow the rerouting of a nearby road, said the airport’s top official.
Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson said Monday the city should keep in place an August 2008 resolution authorizing the airport to relocate West Jackson Street Extended. Otherwise, he said, it could jeopardize the $9.3 million runway extension already approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
That project currently is on hold after airport board members voted last week to postpone action in the wake of public discord.
City officials and residents alike oppose the airport’s plans to reroute West Jackson to make room for the longer runway. They favor a tunnel instead so the east-west road keeps its current course.
A tunnel is a possibility, but it wasn’t the preferred choice of the FAA and could add $1 million and five years to the project, if not more.
City Council members on Monday debated whether to rescind the road-relocation resolution to formally nix that option and open discussion about an alternative.
The idea has the backing of city attorney Guy Mitchell, who said it’s not legally required but is probably the best course of action for the municipality.
Anderson disagreed, but several council members argued in favor of the move, including Ward 6 Councilman Mike Byran.
“We need to rescind,” Bryan said. “Otherwise it’ll look like it’s still an option. I think you lose credibility if you don’t.”
Bryan and Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington also said the council needs more involvement with the airport’s decisions regarding public infrastructure and traffic flow. They asked for more input into future plans.
Several times during the discussion, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. tried to appease both sides, saying everyone wants the same thing: the runway extension and a West Jackson Street tunnel.
“It’s both and neither,” Reed said, “not either or.”
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Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal