'Airport will never close,' Ellis declares

Jul. 12--Macon Mayor Jack Ellis reaffirmed Wednesday the city's commitment to ensuring that Middle Georgia Regional Airport stays up and running. "The airport will never close. I will assure you the airport will never close for commercial...


Jul. 12--Macon Mayor Jack Ellis reaffirmed Wednesday the city's commitment to ensuring that Middle Georgia Regional Airport stays up and running.

"The airport will never close. I will assure you the airport will never close for commercial traffic," Ellis said at a news conference in front of his office in City Hall. "We'll never give up on our airport."

Ellis said a public-private partnership with TBI Airport Management, in which TBI would manage the day-to-day operations of the airport, would be "one of the best things to happen to our airport."

The council's Public Properties Committee unanimously approved Tuesday a contract with TBI. The contract is scheduled to go before the full council next Tuesday.

"We are hopeful and have every reason to believe this will be done," Ellis said of the council's approval.

If it is approved, the mayor said he wants to start the transition to TBI the next day.

This month, Delta Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines announced that they planned to discontinue service at the airport later this year. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation has the power to keep them in place until a replacement is found.

Ellis said there would continue to be at least two flights per day from the airport for the foreseeable future. The city is talking with other airlines now, he said, although he wouldn't say which ones.

Ellis said he would like to see an airline provide service between Macon and cities other than Atlanta, which is where Delta and ASA offered Macon flights to and from.

A recent agreement with Aviation Advantage will offer passengers scheduled charter airline service to other cities, Ellis said.

Macon needs to prepare itself to become a transportation hub in Georgia, Ellis said, predicting that a commuter rail would run from Atlanta to Macon in three to four years. The rail would be an important feed to the airport, especially if it is chosen to be the state's second major airport, he said. Macon's airport will be part of a study to find a location for an airport to back up Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Ellis said.

"We need to be ready for this to happen on our end," he said. "We have to make sure we are ready with our transportation infrastructure."

He said improvements to the Terminal Station, which is expected to be a stopping point for a commuter train, are continuing.

The city is working on getting Greyhound buses in place there, and Ellis said he would eventually like to see Amtrak, a passenger train, stop there.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.

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