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Vicksburg planning large airport expansion

City officials are expected to begin negotiations with a Nashville, Tenn.-based engineering firm to prepare plans for improving the Vicksburg Municipal Airport, including a runway expansion to about 6,500 feet.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday authorized the city’s consultant selection committee to begin negotiations with Barge Design Solutions Inc. for its services.

Keafur Grimes with Barge Solutions, said the company will look at all the projects required to upgrade the airport.

The company will examine the airport’s infrastructure and file a report on the airport’s capital projects to the Federal Aviation Administration, Grimes said. The FAA will include the information in a report to Congress.

The airport expansion is expected to be part of a multimodal system centered around a proposed new port for Vicksburg or the possible expansion of the existing port and expected to cost an estimated $7 to $8 million.

Located off U.S. 61 South, the Vicksburg Municipal Airport was activated in 1950 and presently has a 5,001-foot runway, according to the aviation website AirNav.com. The city also has an interest in the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Tallulah, La.

“Over a period of time, we’ve realized that our airport is a viable entity here. It’s going to be a viable entity for our new port or additions to our (existing) port,” South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said. “It makes us truly multimodal.”

Expanding the runway, Monsour said, was something former city officials have wanted to do but never carried through.

“There’s been an extensive body of work that tells what we can and can’t do,” he said. “Being very diligent in what we’ve done, we’ve got the proposals in to where we can extend it (the runway) to 6,500 feet.

“But at 6,500 feet we can pretty much accept everything that anybody can get on that runway except for a couple of things we can’t take,” he said. “There will be a new taxiway; everything about the runway is going to be brand new.”

Monsour called the proposed improvements “a game-changer for the city of Vicksburg, a game-changer for this area for attracting business and industry and existing industry.”

Becoming multimodal means Vicksburg will be able to offer multiple transportation sites available for business and industry to bring supplies and equipment to the area.

The move to make the area multimodal has been part of an effort to make Vicksburg and Warren County more inviting to companies that will supply materials to the Continental Tire plant near Clinton.

The combination of a new port and modernized airport, combined with highway and rail access, “makes industry know we have every access and means to get its product in and out of Vicksburg, Miss.,” Monsour said. “There’s not many places that can say that.”

He said the multimodal designation opens the city up to receive grants to help improve the airport. Monsour said the city will submit an application to the FAA in November for grant money to help pay for the expansion project.

“With all this improvement, we’re going to take this airport to the next level. We’re going to be able to go out there and get additional hangars for people who want service there,” he said. “The runway will be able to accept just about anything we can put on it, including the possibility of commuter flights, which I think will be vital to Vicksburg one day. I think we should try to get our airport that way; it’s centrally located.”

The improved airport, he said, will be a big asset for the city.

Flaggs said the region can provide sufficient business to keep both the Vicksburg Municipal Airport and the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport viable, “and we don’t have to compete with one another.

“The game-changer means that this (the airport improvements), if successful, will open the opportunity for charter flights out of Vicksburg, point blank. It is absolutely imperative for the growth of this city,” Flaggs said. “If you can open up the airways to small charter commercial use planes, it will be a big, big game-changer.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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