IDOT fast-tracks airport, tollway in Will Co.
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org June 4, 2013 10:14PM
Updated: July 6, 2013 6:33AM
The Illinois Department of Transportation is moving quickly on two giant Will County projects — the south suburban airport and the Illiana Expressway, which combined could cost about $2 billion.
State Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announced an aggressive schedule for both projects during a Joliet Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn. She called Joliet and Will County the “hub” of the state’s vast transportation network.
“Exciting is the only word, what else can you say?” said chamber president and chief executive Russ Slinkard. “We are on the map, no question about it.”
Airport construction could start in 2015 and the Illiana even sooner, Schneider said. All chapters of the airport master plan have been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration “so the ball’s kind of in their court now,” she said.
If the FAA approves the airport plan in 2014, ground could be broken about a year after, Schneider said. During that year, IDOT could use quick-take powers to acquire land it has not already obtained for the inaugural airport footprint, she said.
Quick-take power was included in Senate Bill 20, which was approved by the Legislature last week and gives IDOT control of the airport, which would be built on 5,800 acres near Peotone.
The state has 73 sites left to purchase out of 159 needed initially for the airport. Quick-take powers can only be used within one year of the state breaking ground for the airport. In the meantime, IDOT will continue to negotiate with willing sellers and condemn the land of those unwilling to sell.
The bill, which still needs to be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, also allows IDOT to enter into a public-private partnership to get the airport built. Schneider said she was scheduled to meet with the state’s new public-private partnership advisors on Wednesday to talk about the airport.
“We don’t want the ink to dry, we want to hit the ground running, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” she said.
The public-private partnership for the airport will mirror one being used to build the 47-mile Illiana Expressway from Interstate 55 in Will County to Interstate 65 in Indiana. While a private partner wouldn’t be chosen until the FAA approves the airport, IDOT will start exploring interest now, Schneider said.
The same is true for the Illiana Expressway, she said. An investors’ forum for the highway project is scheduled for June 24-25 in Rosemont, and requests for qualifications from companies interested in the project will go out in July, Schneider said.
She said financial plans could be tied up by September 2014, and construction could begin right after that.
“It’s been a long road to this point,” she said. “But now we can really see the prize at the end of the game.”
The airport has been estimated to initially cost about $433 million, and the Illiana between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.
IDOT also has committed $160 million for additional transportation projects in Joliet from 2014 through 2019 and a total of $700 million for Will County.