Mayoral hopefuls at odds over plan for West Jackson

TUPELO – The city’s four mayoral candidates differ in views about the closing of West Jackson Street Extended for an anticipated airport runway expansion.
Two want to tunnel the road under the runway, one wants to halt the whole project and a fourth said all options should stay on the table.
The major east-west thoroughfare connects several residential areas, as well as the Tupelo Furniture Market, to the rest of town. It’s expected to close when the Tupelo Regional Airport begins work to lengthen its nearby runway.
Some plans call for rerouting traffic north to Colonial Estates Road, but many residents oppose this idea. Other suggestions include tunneling the street under the runway zone to keep it open.
No decision has yet been made, and residents at a neighborhood meeting at the Tupelo Country Club this week grilled mayoral hopefuls on their course of action should they get elected.
“I haven’t seen a long-range plan on the airport, if there is one,” said Republican candidate James R. Presley. “Right now, I think it ought to be tabled. With the economy the way it is, and with Toyota, it’s not the right time.”
Presley said it’s senseless to lengthen the airport’s runway without knowing what the community’s future air needs might be.
The airport might never need the additional space, or he said, it might need more than its landlocked location could ever provide. In that case, the operations might move outside of the city.
It’s better to wait until the city gets a long-range plan to study, he said.
Democratic candidate Kentrel Boyd echoed those comments. He said he wants to look at all options before committing to a decision. But he also suggested the airport might move to a new location where it could expand without bumping into established residential areas.
“Tupelo is growing,” Boyd said, adding that it’s only normal its air transportation needs will grow, too.
Democrat Doyce Deas and Republican Jack Reed Jr. both said the solution is tunneling West Jackson Street Extended under the runway zone to keep it open.
Reed argued that the federal government already committed money to the runway project, and the city shouldn’t reject a handout.
It needs to expand to compete with the nearby Golden Triangle Regional Airport. Tunneling would be a “win-win solution,” he said.
Deas admitted a tunnel would cost several millions of dollars more than simply upgrading Colonial Estates Road.
But she said money is out there in the form of grants and other allocations, and she’ll find it if she’s elected mayor.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/Daily Journal