Monday, June 3, 2013

A new airport? It’s about time!

I’m at the point where I won’t believe there will be a new airport in rural Will County just north of Peotone until I actually see a flight take off from its runways.

Because I have been a reporter-type person long enough to know that this proposed third major airport for the Chicago metro area was supposed to have been built a long time ago – and should have been fully built and up and running by now.

INSTEAD, ALL WE have in that area of eastern Will County (the portion that the political people in Joliet don’t like to acknowledge) is farm fields and dirt roads – with the occasional sign showing nothing more than a black airplane silhouette with a red slash across it.

This is an issue that has dragged on for so long that it is pathetic. It is something that our political people ought to be ashamed of.

Literally, I can remember the late 1980s when the Bi-State Commission of Illinois and Indiana officials was reviewing four airport sites (including Peotone) and the general timeline was approval of a site by about 1991, construction beginning a year or two afterward and taking place in earnest through the mid-1990s.

The first flight from the first stages of the airport would have been in 1999, with serious numbers of flights taking place by 2002 or 2003. And by about 2010, the final stages of the airport would have been complete.

THEN AGAIN, MAYBE this timeline was put together by a collection of Chicago Cubs fans who seriously think that ball club is on the verge of becoming the 21st Century’s dominant force in baseball – instead of extending their mediocrity well into the new century.

Because our political people in Illinois are of the mentality that there’s no point in rushing into anything!

I bring all of this up because of the fact that a bill actually slipped through the General Assembly at the end of last week. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn – who has made it clear he will sign it into law.

Depending on where one comes from, this is the bill that provides state funding for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pipe dream of a sports arena near McCormick Place, or for a new fertilizer plant near Tuscola.

OR, AS THE governor thinks of it, the bill that lets the Illinois Department of Transportation create the government entity that will manage a new airport that will (in theory) go along with O’Hare International and Midway airports to handle Chicago’s aviation needs.

Much of the stink that has kept the idea of a new airport on hold for the past couple of decades has been a brawl over who should actually run any such facility. If it were really just a matter of rural residents in the area not liking an airport on their land, government officials would have had no qualms about squashing their fears.

Will County officials have always wanted to think that any new airport was THEIRS, while city officials have always wanted to ensure that any new airport was under their domain! State control probably makes just as much sense – although it likely bothers everybody else.

For Quinn, in praising the Legislature on Friday, made reference to 11,000 construction jobs and 14,000 people employed at a future airport. Everybody wants to have a say in determining how those jobs get distributed.

WE’RE STILL QUITE some time away from actually seeing construction start – although the state has purchased much of the land in the area for airport development.

What may be reality in a couple of decades, and what should have been reality by now. Map provided by Illinois Department of Transportation/FAA
But my hope is that we’ll have a real-live airport in that area sometime around 2030 – which is around the time I should be thinking in terms of retirement (unless business interests and somebody’s desire to improve their financial bottom line tries to put me out to pasture some time prior to then).

It will only be a couple of decades too late!


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