CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Department of Transportation says a report quoting a department official as implying a third airport in Peotone was a done deal is premature.
The Chicago Sun-Times report syndicated by the Sun-Times Media Wire quoted Susan Shea, director of the aeronautics division at IDOT: ““To the naysayers, this is it. The FAA would not tell us this is the preferred place. This is where it’s going to be. It’s going to be such an economic engine for the community out there, for the state. It is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when. It’s not a matter anymore of if.”
But IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said Shea and her department have only prepared documents on the airport, and the department has not approved them or submitted them to the Federal Aviation Administration. The aeronautics department plans are also just one part of a master plan that must be submitted to the FAA, Tridgell said.
“By no means are we ready to build the airport. But this is a procedural step that is significant. We’re one step closer,” Tridgell told CBS 2.
Shea wouldn’t comment directly on the issue the day after the article.
In the Sun-Times report, Shea said she was encouraged when the Federal Aviation Administration on June 27 accepted Illinois’ alternatives report, which means the FAA “has finally painted on the ground where the first runway, the first terminal, the cargo area will be, where the passengers will be. Exactly where it’s at on the inaugural footprint. It gave me great pride.
“What this does, it tells you where you’re going to be on Day One. And it gives you time to start working on the highways, on where the access roads really ought to be,” Shea said.
As of now, the first runway would be south of Eagle Creek Road and east of Will Center Road. Crawford Avenue, if it were allowed to, would bisect the runway.
The state has acquired 2,317 acres for the airport and is seeking 623 more in nine land condemnation cases in Will County. Condemnation is not a preferred method of hers, Shea said, noting that as a child, her family lost a house near Peoria to the state for what became part of Interstate 74.
Back in April, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), a strong backer of the third airport, led a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the airport in which people were asked to bring their own shovels.
The project has been beset over the years by arguments over where to build the airport, opposition from major airlines and – most recently – a battle over who would control it. Jackson’s Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission, a grouping of 21 municipal governments in the Chicago area, had been seeking the go-ahead from Quinn and says it has lined up $700 million in private funds and two developers.
Officials in Will County also want control and have been pressuring Quinn to stop talks with Jackson’s commission. Instead, they want the state legislature to create a governing airport authority led by the county that would have clear powers to develop, finance and operate the airport.
Jackson is currently on a leave of absence from Congress for a medical problem.