The Federal Aviation Administration is set to conduct an inspection of the New Bedford Regional Airport on June 9th that could lead to an expansion of service by commercial airlines.

Mayor Jon Mitchell is suggesting that it may be time to decide whether New Bedford wants an active commercial airport or if we should just plant grass and turn the whole thing into housing lots.  Since the airport was built in the 1940's there has been varying levels of activity there, some commercial but mostly recreational.  There has been lots of talk over the years of expanding the role of the airport for one purpose or another but, nothing has ever come of it.

The case has been made time and time again that New Bedford provides a viable option for travelers and cargo shippers who don't wish to fight traffic to get to crowded airports in Warwick and Boston.  New Bedford is not likely to become the next T.F. Green Airport but it can accommodate smaller jets for regional travel including Boston and New York and perhaps even Florida.

The FAA must complete it's review before issuing the certification that is required to  allow for commercial growth at the airport.  Mayor Mitchell says a market study indicates there is a demand for expanded commercial service.  That conclusion is supported by former Airport Commission member and City Councilor Tom Kennedy.

I support expansion wholeheartedly and would urge the FAA to move quickly with certification.  Otherwise, perhaps the best course would be to plant grass and turn the airport into revenue generating housing lots.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.