Jacksonville Runway Expansion Opposed

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Residents opposed to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority's (JAA's) bid to lengthen a runway at Craig Field, a reliever airport close to downtown Jacksonville, say the authority is breaking a six-year-old promise to leave the facility as is. In 2001, the airport authority agreed to scrap any expansion plans in exchange for autonomy from the Jacksonville Port Authority, and that deal is apparently coming back to haunt the JAA as it starts jumping the political hoops to extend one of Craig Field's runways from 4,000 to 6,000 feet. According to the Jacksonville Times-Union, the JAA and its supporters cite the numerous safety benefits of the extension. The campaign in favor of the extension is called Safer Craig, and proponents say the longer the runway, the safer it is. But some nearby residents and some members of city council aren't buying the safety angle. "The airport authority has framed the issue," City Council President Daniel Davis said at a recent meeting where the issue was discussed. "That's a legitimate discussion, if it's a safety initiative or not."

Others believe there is a hidden agenda to allow more and larger aircraft to use Craig, which is closer to upscale neighborhoods and some city attractions than other local airports that have the runway capacity for larger aircraft. There's also the suggestion that the runway extension is aimed at accommodating an air taxi service, which needs a longer runway for insurance requirements. For neighbor Beverly Garvin, the issue is clear. "I don't know how many times I have to stand up in front of these gentlemen and say, 'No,'" she told the Times-Union. "The City Council has said that to them, but it's like they don't hear. They don't know what the word 'no' means."