By NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo’s City Council and the Tupelo Airport Authority took no votes Monday in a joint informational meeting about lengthening the runway at Tupelo Regional Airport, but it seems probable that West Jackson Street will survive one way or another and that new evaluations will be made of how the runway might be lengthened.
The open information hearing, which included members of both the council and the authority board, elicited many questions from participants – and explicit pledges from most to work for the long-term good of Tupelo.
A proposal for an 8,000 foot runway will be evaluated – with cost estimates for a West Jackson Street tunnel or some other east-west connector meeting FAA specifications, plus evaluation of adding to both the south and north ends of the runway, which might simplify the issue of West Jackson Street and east-west street access from west Tupelo residential neighborhoods and industries.
The joint meeting follows weeks of near silence on the controversial runway issue that led, in part, to the firing of former airport administrator Terry Anderson, a division among citizens about the lengthening, and obviously unofficial discussions about a length that would not require the closing of West Jackson Street.
Monday’s session also included staff members representing U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, planners, engineers, and airport experts from Neel-Shaeffer engineering firm, a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Jackson office, and Mayor Reed.
Information offered from the engineers and others involved in the planning and approval process filled in some fact gaps; questions were numerous from both council members and airport authority board members.
As the issue moves forward, the much-discussed and frequently criticized proposal for an 8,000-foot runway will be further considered, but FAA representative Rans Black said the federal agency has approved only a 7,500 -foot runway – the longest supported by facts gathered about the airport. Approval for 8,000 feet and other costs associated with it, including some kind of east-west connector, would require funding beyond the FAA’s regular sources. It also would involve possibly lengthy negotiations with the Chickasaw Nation, which has tribal interests in historic and sacred sites near the airport.
It appears that most of the City Council members and the airport authority would at least consider lengthening on both ends of the runway, should that prove feasible and within the safety requirements of the FAA.
We hope the airport authority approves additional evaluations, then makes its recommendations within the scope of that fuller information.