Third airport plan still circling
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2011 4:54PM
Updated: September 29, 2011 12:53AM
WEST CHICAGO — The DuPage Airport was celebrated as a success story Thursday, when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood came to call.
Consensus was less evident, however, on the matter of a third major airport for the Chicago region.
LaHood’s visit was designed to spotlight the advances made by the corporate air field, which has been overhauled over the past decade to turn a $2 million annual shortfall into a $2 million profit.
Regional airports serve as a critical cog in an area’s vitality, LaHood said.
“The economic engine that’s created by people having this kind of infrastructure is just so important,” he said, adding that the upgrades made around O’Hare International Airport also have improved local economies. “Everybody in the region will benefit from that.”
Many of those who support the establishment of a south suburban commercial airport near Peotone assert it would be an economic boon to the metropolitan area as well.
LaHood isn’t hearing much talk of that yet, though.
“People have not been beating down my door about this,” LaHood said.
He noted that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has long been a proponent of a third airport in southern Will County, but there hasn’t been the same sort of broad call for Washington’s involvement that he heard to inspire his department to lend a hand with the O’Hare expansion. That project received an infusion of $155 million in federal support earlier this year.
“When I am invited to get involved in a project and I can help, I try to get involved,” LaHood said.
Debbie Halvorson planned to extend that invitation. The former U.S. House of Representatives member, now working as a government-relations consultant, said she received a call on her way to the DuPage Airport from John Greuling, president of the Will County Center for Economic Development. He wanted her to make sure LaHood understands the feasibility of a Peotone airport.
“There’s money in the budget to buy more land,” Halvorson said.
Although governmental entities haven’t yet settled the question of who would exercise control over the airport, backers of the proposal are working to find additional land owners interested in selling property for the facility, she said.
Proceedings also are moving ahead on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s acquisition of 59 properties needed to establish the planned 5,385-acre inaugural footprint. IDOT is currently in court with the owners of four parcels, at least one of whom is expected to challenge the state agency’s right to take the land through eminent domain.