Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bult Field to be incorporated into Peotone airport

While the Illinois Department of Transportation finally delivered its preferred layout plan for the proposed Peotone airport to the Federal Aviation Administration, it assumed the acquisition of Bult Field, the newly-renovated general aviation airport in eastern Will County along Kedzie Avenue.

That was news to the airport’s owner Jim Bult, who said he knew nothing about IDOT’s plan to acquire and incorporate his airport into the state’s airport.

Bult said Friday afternoon, just after the airport layout plan had been delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration, that he has had no talks with IDOT.

“There have been no offers to buy the property, nor any discussions about a joint use, or anything whatsoever,” he said.

“It is interesting that something is speaking that loudly for me,” Bult said of the airport layout plan, concluding, “I know nothing about it.”

The state’s report notes that the improvements at Bult Field, a new 5,000-foot long paved runway and substantial aircraft parking and storage space, have caused them to update their GA facility requirements in their master plan.

Ironically, it is the existence of Bult Field that caused IDOT to have to rethink the airport layout in the first place.

IDOT now makes the following assumption, as stated in the narrative of its plan.

“IDOT anticipates that Bult Field will be acquired and incorporated into the Inaugural Airport. It is expected that existing facilities at Bult Field will serve the General Aviation (GA) needs at SSA(South Suburban Airport). The airfield improvements that have been recently undertaken at Bult Field resulted in a significant increase in the number of based aircraft. As a result General Aviation/Corporate Aviation forecasts will be updated to reflect the changes that have occurred at Bult Field since October 2004.”

Under this scenario, the better Bult Field does in terms of a business — housing airplanes and providing increased take-offs and landings — the more IDOT will use its numbers to justify building an airport.

IDOT’s assumption is the latest in a long line of issues between the state and Jim Bult. Like other landowners in the area, Bult has received letters threatening condemnation. And, like other landowners, he ignored them, because like them, he is not a willing seller.

Bult bought the former Sanger Field, a small general aviation airstrip in disrepair, in 2004. He planned to make the improvements needed to house additional aircraft, including his own, as well as build a 5,000-foot concrete runway.

By July, 2006 he had completed all of the preliminary approvals he needed from Will County. But, at the eleventh hour, former Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin filed an objection. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. did not object, but he made it known that he opposed Bult’s plan. No legal action was taken and Bult was free to proceed with upgrading the facility.

The work was completed by the end of the year. In mid-December, Bult sent the first of many letters to IDOT to request a final inspection.

It wasn’t until five months later that the state performed its obligatory final inspection. And, another month went by before a certificate of occupancy was issued allowing Bult to open the airport for business.

In addition to Bult Field, another reason IDOT had to rework its layout, was to satisfy federal agencies’ concerns about impacts on Black Walnut Creek.

IDOT has made numerous other changes since submissions of the layout plan in September 2005 and December 2005.

To diminish the impacts on Black Walnut Creek, the updated plan places the terminal complex approximately 2,300 feet east and 1,800 feet north of the runway.

Other highlights of the configuration of the inaugural airport include direct access to and from Interstate 57, by a new interchange and access road connecting the interstate to the terminal. It will go over Route 50 and the Illinois Central Railroad. Cargo access will be provided via Route 1 at Eagle Lake Road.

Access to the general aviation area will be via Offner and Crawford.

An air traffic control tower is expected to be located in a secured area, relatively central from the runway ends, approximately 2,600 feet north of the runway’s centerline. Access will be provided from Crawford via a new access road. The FAA will determine the location and final elevation.

Aircraft rescue, firefighting and snow removal complex will be fairly central and approximately 1,600 feet north of the runway. The fuel facility will be located within a secure area at the east side of the airfield to the north of the cargo facilities.

Beyond the Inaugural airport, the future layout plan will include up to six parallel east-west runways capable of accommodating four simultaneous approaches.

Support facilities can be developed along Eagle Lake Rd.

The ultimate size of the inaugural airport is 5,200 acres with an eye on the ultimate site at 20,032 acres.