Thursday, June 12, 2008

Does Chicagoland really need another airport?

In the May 25 Tribune transportation section special, "O'Hare: Built in a year," David Young draws a contrast between the rapid construction of O'Hare Airport a half century ago and today's protracted efforts to build public works projects. He cites the current O'Hare expansion and planning for "the region's proposed third airport near south suburban Peotone."

A little noticed advantage of long lead times is that policymakers have the opportunity to reconsider the initial premise before final decisions are literally cast in concrete. Two decades since Illinois taxpayers began footing the bill for Peotone "studies," the question remains whether there's any public benefit to paving over the farm fields of eastern Will County.

Clearly, it's wrong to describe Peotone as the "region's proposed third airport." In a 1988 report, IDOT acknowledged the state of Wisconsin's contention that Milwaukee's Mitchell Field, which serves many people from northern Illinois, is the third regional airport. In a 2008 report, IDOT acknowledged the state of Indiana's contention that Gary-Chicago Airport - a Midway-like facility that has yet to attract regularly scheduled commercial passenger service - is the region's third airport.

Does Chicagoland really need a fifth regional airport?

The Illinois General Assembly should commission an independent study that considers all local infrastructure costs, as well as actual and projected revenue losses that would result from IDOT's plans to remove up to 35 square miles of eastern Will County real estate from the tax rolls. The study should evaluate airport-related costs and benefits based on various scenarios, including an assumption that a Peotone airport would attract no daily commercial passenger service for many years, if ever.

—Patti Schoenbeck, Monee Township Supervisor, Monee

—Brian Cann, Will Township Supervisor, Peotone

—Bob Howard, Washington Township Supervisor, Beecher