I read with great interest Robert Heuer's article on the evolution of the Peotone Airport proposal ["Runway Inflation," March 15]. I'd like to share additional information on the proposal.
Chicago Tonight explored the various options of a third airport in our area. Phil Ponce had the mayors of Rockford and Gary as well as Jesse Jackson Jr. on the show. Both mayors made valid arguments why their airports were suited for expansion, although the Rockford mayor saw his future customer base as McHenry, Kane, and western Du Page county residents.
Jesse Jackson Jr. went into a frenzy as to why Peotone was the only option, that to expand O'Hare would cost more than building the airport and the related infrastructure in Peotone. He even suggested that the new generation of airplanes would have a wingspan so wide they would collide across runways at O'Hare. Although Airbus and Boeing are working on a double-decked plane that would seat 600 people, they would be variations on the current Airbus and Boeing designs. I've seen the expanse between taxi areas and runways and see Jackson's statement as ridiculous.
That a new airport, complete with necessary sewers, electrical systems, and roads would be cheaper than expanding O'Hare, with its infrastructure in place, was disingenuous.
The most rational choice is Gary. There are existing runways, the South Shore train station in place, the Indiana Toll Road/Chicago Skyway on its southern border, and vast undeveloped land around it. It is 28 miles from downtown Chicago and closer to Lansing, South Holland, and even southwestern Orland Park than Peotone.
Our government officials are provincial to think the third airport must be in Illinois. Our tax dollars mean contracts, and thus political contributions for them, not to mention enormous profits for insiders to make reselling the land back to the government.
This is a rare opportunity to expand an existing airport without massive acquisition costs and to spur real economic development to a long-depressed city. I say to our federal representatives (who would provide funding for the project) to treat our tax dollars as we do our budgets--to get the most bang for the buck!
Robert Heuer replies:
A discussion of commonsense alternatives can really strike a Peotone booster's nerve. Based on its decade-old study on the feasibility of plunking another O'Hare within the Gary city limits, IDOT continues to "inform" us that expansion would displace thousands of people and destroy irreplaceable wetlands. Gary officials say their plan calls for little or no disruption of the surrounding area and would stimulate redevelopment of an underutilized industrial part of town. An expanded Gary airport would, like Midway, be about one square mile in size. O'Hare is about 13 square miles. And Peotone? As I stated, the "starter" airport would replicate what already exists in Gary. The long-term goal is to make Peotone nearly three times the size of O'Hare.