Cash-Strapped Ill. Government Moving Ahead With Peotone Land Buys

PEOTONE, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois may be facing a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, but that is not stopping plans to spend tens of millions on a proposed third Chicago airport.

Gov. Pat Quinn this week affirmed plans to borrow $110 million to advance the construction of the airport in south suburban Peotone.

“We want to build an airport in Peotone — as fast as humanly possible,” Quinn said.

To do that, he wants to borrow $110 million. The money would be used to buy another 2,500 acres of farmland at what Quinn says are bargain-basement prices in the current economy.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime and we are not going to pass it up,” Quinn said.

But will Peotone turn into a white elephant? That’s the view of the Air Transport Association, a trade group.

“None of our members have currently committed to serving a proposed airport in Peotone,” it says.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

Airport opponent George Ochsenfeld has taken note of that.

“The aviation industry doesn’t think it’s a great idea. The airline industry sued Chicago to try and prevent expansion there. They said there’s plenty of capacity,” he says.

Ochsenfeld spoke out along rural Eagle Ridge Road, where the main runway is planned. He heads a group called Shut This Airport Nightmare Down, or STAND.

“This is wrong time, the wrong place to even think about project,” he said. “Right now, the state of Illinois is slashing funding for mentally disabled people and other vulnerable people and they want to spend $100 million to build an unneeded airport.”        

Will County Executive Larry Walsh thinks it is needed and predicts the federal government will ride to the financial rescue of the project.

When pressed about whether that’s assured, he replied: “I can’t guarantee anything. I can’t guarantee I’m going to be here tomorrow.”

Walsh was also asked if this is the right time to borrow that kind of money.

“If you look at the glass as half empty, then it’s never the time,” he said.

Critics worry that the Illinois glass is not even half empty — that it is, in fact, empty.

Contributing: CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall

  • Rex

    44000 per acre, who says its not a sellers market market

    • jamie

      i have an idea why not spend some of that money to fix the roads in my town and maybe keep teachers and public services like firefighters and police on the job instead of another unneeded airport. or even better put a little of that money into finding out why our state is so far in debt and you have to keep taxing the hell out of us. tax for gas sales tax this. come on now do we not pay enough to live in this state after ryan and blagovich?

    • VTchicago

      These sellers are politically connected. They buy and sell based on inside information.

  • Jeff

    Passed Peotone on the way from Urbana today. It is in the middle of nowhere. I would rather he gives $1,000,000 to 100 poor people.


    IF YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND MORE TAXPAYER DOLLARS THEN BUILD IT WHERE IT MAKES SENSE. PEOTONE has been fighting this issue for years. Peotone doesn’t want it! I say LaSalle County is the best place to build the airport! LASALLE-PERU to be Exact! Along Route 80 & I 39. LaSalle-Peru is an 1 hour from Rockford, Bloomington, Peoria, Quad Cities. LaSalle-Peru is 2 hours form Chicago & Springfield and that’s driving the major Route 80 & I 39. Add the Mass Transit Rail System in with this Airport and American is on its way to new social network that will create jobs and new way to ship goods across state lines. LASALLE-PERU, IL is the best place for the airport not Peotone. Peotone is too close to the east coast we need to spread our wings to the west. I wish people would start thinking outside the box.

  • webdiva

    Building an airport in Peotone was always an idiotic idea and remains one. Nobody wants to go there except the people who have already bought up some of the land there (mostly George Ryan’s cronies) and, for some mysterious reason, Gov. Quinn. The man must be having a mini-stroke: it’s the only logical reason for so brain-addled a decision. Spend the money or repairing the state’s deteriorating physical infrastructure — the crumbling bridges and viaducts, for example — instead of wasting it on Peotone! He must really have some downstaters leaning on him is all I can conclude. And he shouldn’t give in to them.

    That third airport should be way closer to Chicago. There is a hundred-year trend of more and more Americans living in metropolitan areas and away from rural areas. An airport isn’t gong to bring them back to Peotone, so you may as well put the airport where the people are. Like on that old US Steel site at 87th street and the lake. New housing and a music venue there won’t bring in even one-tenth of the money a new airport and surrounding industrial park would bring in over the next several decades. Do the right thing and give up on Peotone, already!

  • Reality Check

    I applaud Governor Quinn and the leaders in Will County for continuing to make decisions about the long-term need and viability of the airport near Peotone in these tough economic times. Most of the people who comment negatively probably don’t even understand how to finance a house responsibly, let along could they begin to understand what, how and when a new airport is viable. We can not stop progress or we will go under as a nation. We must continue to make good policy decisions despite the tough economic times. Bring on the Peotone airport. Bring on High Speed Rail. Bring on more transit service. Bring on the Illiana Expressway.

    • Keen

      I am all for development where its useful, but if an airport is needed in Peotone, why is the Gary IN. airport, (much closer to many more people) sitting unused? Why is the Mascouta (sp?) IL. airport sitting unused? What makes Peotone, (further away, & opposed by airlines and the city of Chicago) different from those two? We don’t need a third white elephant, IMHO.

  • Centurion

    The people of Peotone do not want the airport. The people of Monee, Manteno, Manhattan do not want the airport. The reason these people moved to this area was to get away from the areas with the big friggin airports. I love the area..and when that stupid airport comes…bringing with it all the homies that Jesse Jr promised JOBS…..its gonna ruin Will County.
    Burn down Ford Heights and build this airport there. Build it near Harvey, Ford Heights, Chicago Heights. Don’t bring the homies to Peotone.

  • Knappydawg

    Does anyone know the max IQ a person can have and be Gov of this state. Can’t be much over 50 or 60!! Sure seems the case for the last 3..

  • Mr Voter

    ….once again the gov. wimpy buckles under , remmeber little jesse jr. wants this ….and that pandering quinn was bowing and begging everyone to vote,…gee did anyone think of askiing this clown to take a drug test or IQ test….he’s a sure 40 !……
    Recall Quinn……………2011 !!!!!!!

  • dan

    Economic engine for the South Suburbs, sure. create jobs, yeah right.

    Too bad most of the people that are and will be flying live closer to Midway, O’Hare, and Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. Look where Peotone is on the map, only politicians are dumb eneough to think this is a good idea. Not to mention they have/are spending money at O’hare, Midway, and Gary to keep them viable options well into the future.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid! End the folly before it begins. Politicians need to have the guts to kill this like the govenor of New Jersey did with the economic sink hole he inherited.

  • Ellen

    Reimbursement comes from a successful airport. This one doesn’t look like it will be successful. The airlines don’t want it and have stated they won’t use it. How successful can an airport be without airlines? Check out the airport Illinois built near St. Louis in Mascoutah, IL.

  • Keen

    I am all for development where its useful, but if an airport is needed in Peotone, why is the Gary IN. airport, (much closer to many more people) sitting unused? Why is the Mascouta (sp?) IL. airport sitting unused? What makes Peotone, (further away, & opposed by airlines and the city of Chicago) different from those two? We don’t need a third white elephant, IMHO.

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