By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Having the cheapest – and most controversial – option of extending the runway at Tupelo Regional Airport eliminated from consideration, consultants have come up with what they think is the best option.
“We think adding 650 feet to the north and 350 feet to the north has the greatest promise,” said Allen Thames, senior aviation planner with Neel-Schaffer engineering firm.
Thames updated the Tupelo Airport Authority on his extension project study at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
The original, and cheapest, option was to extend the runway 1,000 feet to the north, which would have meant closing and rerouting West Jackson Street Extended. Opponents said the move would eliminate a major east-west corridor through the city.
One option was to turn the street to a tunnel, which would cost about $14 million.
Thames said the 650/350 option likely would cost a little less, but wouldn’t be able to provide a cost estimate for another couple of weeks.
“By the next meeting, we should have the figures, and it should be a no-brainer in what we recommend,” he said.
Another option was to add 500 feet to both ends of the runway. But that would have meant moving both a city fire station and a BancorpSouth branch.
But expanding to the south by only 350 feet, the airport would not have to move the bank branch. However, the fire station still would have to move, and Thames said it could move farther to the north onto airport property. The bank sits on land not owned by the airport.
“And it’s far cheaper to move a fire station than a bank,” he said.
Thames said the extension project will be 95 percent funded with federal money, and that that money also could be used to pay for moving the fire station.
Work on the project, however, won’t start any earlier than next year.
Airport officials want to extend the runway in order to accommodate larger planes and fuel loads. The airport has federal approval to extend it 1,000 feet.