Pritzker's Budget Funds Roadwork For South Suburban Airport
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL —Gov. JB Pritzker tucked $162 million in the state's budget for building an interchange near south suburban Peotone, signaling that the region's third airport may be on its way.
Early last month, 54 elected officials across the south suburbs, including U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Matteson and House Speaker Michael Madigan, pressed Pritzker to set aside $150 million in the 2020 capital bill to pay for off-site improvements, including a new interchange at I-57, local road upgrades and utilities connections. The airport, which the FAA refers to as the South Suburban Airport, will be financed by private dollars.
The money, however was tucked into the state budget, which Pritzker is expected to approve Wednesday, instead of the capital bill.
"The amount of $162,000,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated from the Transportation Bond Series A Fund to the Department of Transportation for all expenses related to the construction of an interchange at Eagle Lake Road," the legislation said.
The interchange would be built at Eagle Lake Road west of Built Field in Peotone, the site of the proposed airport. There is no direct route from I-57, although the field is easily accessed from IL-50.
"This is a big step in showing that the state is serious about the project and a signal to developers that this a real, potential project now,"said State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights.
Since 2000, the Illinois Department of Transportation has spent more than $100 million to purchase 4,500 acres of what is largely farmland in Will County for the proposed airport. The project stalled because former Gov. Bruce Rauner did not support it. Pritzker, however, said during his campaign for office, that he would support the airport as long as it did not take jobs away from O'Hare or Midway.
In May, Kelly reported that land acquisition and planning for the airport was 90 percent complete. The state so far owns 89 percent of the land where it will sit and is poised to secure the rest once all other details are in place. All FAA approvals are in place, except for the final, detailed construction plan by the contractor. What's needed, she and the other elected officials said in a letter to Pritzker, was the funding to wrap up the final leg of the project.
The new budget gave them $162 million to do that.
"Studies have shown the need for air cargo in the region and the demand is only growing," DeLuca said.
"Ultimately, the free market will determine whether the airport is a project in the foreseeable future, but it has been determined that there is a real need."
The next steps in bringing the new airport to the region are not yet clear. DeLuca said he is meeting with IDOT officials later this month to learn more.
Read the original at the Chicago Heights Patch.