EDITORIAL: Streets, runways

Tonight’s public information hearing on the proposed re-routing of West Jackson Street Extended to accommodate the planned lengthening of the Tupelo Regional Airport’s runway needs the broadest possible input from interested residents – and airport users.
The 5 p.m.-7 p.m. informational session in the City Council chambers at City Hall, will present detailed maps of the proposed re-routing, which would take Jackson to McCullough Boulevard, eliminating its connection to west Tupelo neighborhoods via Coley Road and Purnell Road. Written comments are encouraged for the record; no oral statements will be taken.
Plans call for lengthening the runway from 6,500 to 7,500 feet, or possibly 8,000 feet.
Opponents say a tunnel that would burrow under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Runway Protection Zone (through which the existing West Jackson Extended is routed) is preferable, even though more expensive than the proposed rerouting in parallel with Colonial Estates Drive.
The federal government would use its tax revenues to pay for most of either a tunnel or a rerouted road. The tunnel’s projected cost Wednesday afternoon was $8.2 million, compared to a projected $2.5 million for rerouting Jackson.
The previous City Council gave a green light to planning for and securing funding for the runway extension, and a delegation of city leaders and private-sector interests has canvassed the congressional delegation.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, and 1st District Rep. Travis Childers, a Democrat from Booneville, will have representatives at today’s hearing.
The process to win approval for an exception to general FAA rules about tunnels and airports probably would involve an amendment attached to appropriate legislation, and that would serve as the start of an intentional push to fund the tunnel’s construction.
Funding for lengthening is a separate issue. As discussed so far, a longer runway would not cross a West Jackson tunnel, but burying the roadway would remove it as a hazard to aircraft, as a security issue, and as a hazard for aircraft and vehicles traveling the street.
We believe lengthening the airport runway is essential to assuring adequate commercial and charter service, as well as increasing general aviation traffic, particularly corporate aircraft.
It’s obvious that opinion between the airport authority and the City Council is divided, although the council has the final say. It’s probable that comments submitted at today’s hearing overwhelmingly will favor a tunnel option.
We believe both a solution and unity are possible as discussions continue.

NEMS Daily Journal

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