TUPELO – Later this month, the public gets a chance to see the plan Tupelo Regional Airport officials think is the best solution to a hotly debated topic.
Last year, the airport said it needed to move West Jackson Street Extended, in order to be compliant under federal rules.
The airport also wants to extend its runway.
Several residents and business owners along the route said moving the road would choke off vital access to and through the city. West Jackson Extended connects Coley Road to West Jackson Street, one of three main east-west links through Tupelo.
But airport officials said the road already was in violation of a “Runway Protection Zone” and needed to be moved regardless of whether or not the runway was extended.
On Oct. 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall, the public can see for themselves what solution the airport has to offer.
The meeting is the last step of a required environmental assessment of the airport’s plans to expand the runway and adjust the roads around the airport.
“It’s a public meeting that is an opportunity to be exposed to the airport’s history, plans, future and the project,” said airport Executive Director Terry Anderson.
The public also will be able to submit comments at the meeting.
Moving a road
The plan, which has been reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, calls for relocating a portion of Colonial Estates Road. The road, which runs north-south, provides access to several residential neighborhoods.
Under the plan, part of Colonial Estates Road would move west about 50 yards, running parallel along its current route from West Jackson Extended to Lansdowne Drive, where it would continue on its original course.
However, the current Colonial Estates Road now providing direct access to those neighborhoods would remain.
“The new road is necessary for the increased traffic that would be coming thorugh,” Anderson said.”
From Lansdowne, as the realigned portion of the road continues north toward McCullough, a turn lane would be added right before the railroad tracks, continuing on toward McCullough. There, traffic signals would be added, including a left-turn-only light.
That plan might allay some of the fears of area residents who feared a big increase in traffic caused by the closing of West Jackson Extended.
And that road will be closed – but only after the realigned Colonial Estates Road is finished.
Opponents of the closure of West Jackson Extended have argued that it should be converted to a tunnel – and Anderson said that it remains a possibility.
But the first plan will cost about $2.5 million, with federal money accounting for 95 percent of the cost. A tunnel would cost about $7 million.
However, Anderson said he’s hoping the state’s congressional delegation can work at getting funding to build a tunnel.
“The potential of a tunnel is still there,” Anderson said. “Our Congressional staffs are trying to find ways to fund it.”
Anderson also said the tunnel idea has a few issues that have to be addressed including drainage and ventilation, not to mention approval by federal authorities.
So, there is a remote possibility residents and businesses could get the best of both worlds – Colonial Estates Road gets shifted and a tunnel is built.
Meanwhile, plans to extend the airport’s runway from 6,500 feet to 8,000 feet are moving ahead. The FAA has approved an extension to 7,500 feet, but is studying the feasibility of the additional 500 feet.
Anderson said runway work would coincide with work on Colonial Estates Road, and West Jackson Extended would not be affected.
The length of the $7 million runway extension project is a “multi-year project.”
For now, the public meeting will determine what happens next. Comments will be reviewed and within 30 days, the FAA will announce the results of the environmental assessment.
“That’s the trigger mechanism for funding” of the projects, Anderson said.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or email@example.com.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal