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City moves forward with study, design of upgrade and expansion of Municipal Airport

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen have approved a $215,811 work authorization order with a Nashville, Tenn.-based engineering firm to study and design a proposed massive upgrade to the Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

The money for the study and design work is being provided through a grant by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The board approved the plan with Barge Design Solutions of Nashville on Monday. The city in October signed a contract with the engineering company to survey and design needed upgrades to the airport on U.S. 61 South that was activated in 1950.

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said the upgrades would include acquiring additional land to expand the runway, constructing and upgrading buildings at the airport, constructing additional hangars, improving the taxiways and service lane, among other things.

Monsour said the runway expansion would put the city’s airport at a level where it could handle large charter flights.

The initial estimates for those upgrades is between $8 and $9 million.

Keafur Grimes with Barge Design said the cost of the project will be based on a study his firm will compile that will involve an aerial survey of the airport area and obstructions covering a 10-mile long and 5-mile wide area surrounding the airport.

The study is expected to take a year to complete.

“They’re (a subcontractor) going to fly a number of flight plans to pick up that data,” he said. “Once they pick up all that data, that data will be submitted into the FAA’s National Air Space Reference System.”

Grimes did not have the subcontractor’s name at the time of publication.

The National Air Space System, Graves said, is the national data system containing information on obstructions at airports across the county. It allows pilots flying into an airport to have information on obstructions and their locations as they approach land.

He said the FAA requires that any time work affects the runway of an airport, it has to be tied into the National Air Space System. The survey, he said, will develop the information on the airport obstructions and will be placed in the air space system.

“That means the data has to have a certain accuracy, and they (the subcontractor) will have to go through a lot of different systems to put it in the National Air Space System,” Graves said.

Once the obstructions at the Vicksburg Municipal airport are put in the system, Graves said, the FAA will pay to remove them if needed, “To approve the approaches into the airfield.”

He said the present design for the airport was probably never funded because FAA officials did not believe they could fund it, and there have been changes in the FAA’s design criteria.

“We will be bringing everything up to date based on the current design criteria,” Graves said, adding the new design may be able to help the city get funding from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the FAA.

“It will be a plan that’s realistic and cost-effective,” Graves said. “Right now, the current plan requires so much money the FAA would never get started on it because they wouldn’t be able to finish.

“We’re going to come up with a realistic plan that we will be able to move toward completing it,” he said.

The proposed upgrade is expected to make the airport part of a multi-modal system centered around a proposed new port for Vicksburg or the possible expansion of the existing port.

Becoming multi-modal means Vicksburg will be able to offer multiple transportation sites for business and industry to bring supplies and equipment to the area and make Vicksburg and Warren County more inviting to companies that will supply materials to the Continental Tire facility near Clinton.

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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