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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg City Council approves runway extension study for Albert Whitted Airport

A small airplane takes off from Albert Whitted Airport, Thursday.


A small airplane takes off from Albert Whitted Airport, Thursday.



Building a runway into the waters of Tampa Bay from Albert Whitted Airport got a lukewarm reception at the St. Petersburg City Council Thursday.

The council unanimously approved a $50,000 feasibiity study, mostly paid for with state funds, but several council members raised enviromental concerns about the airport's plans to add an additional 1,300 to 1,800 feet to the east-west runway at the waterfront airport.

"I'm not real excited about tearing up the Bay," said council member Steve Kornell. 

Airport manager Richard Lesniak said the extension would accomodate larger corporate jets, making the city more attractive to executives looking to relocate their headquarters. The extension would also allow planes landing from the west to start their descent later. That allow future development in the "Innovation District" surrounding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg to include taller buildings, he said.

"We have no visions of landing 747s," Lesniak said. "This is for small and medium corporate jets."

The study should take about four months. After that the city would need the permission of the Federal Aviation Agency and undertake an extensive environmental assessment.

Council member Darden Rice was skeptical that the proposal would make it past the federal environmental hurdles and even less certain that city residents would support it.

"I don't see this going over well with the public," she said.

Any extension would be funded up to 98 percent by the FAA and the state, Lesniak said. He estimated it would take about five or six years to complete. No cost estimate for the extension was offered. 

Other council members said they thought it was exciting economic development opportunity.

"It's to our advantage to see if it's possible," Dudley said. 

[Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2015 3:27pm]


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