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"Panel puts Peotone airport site in motion"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Panel puts Peotone airport site in motion
Jackson group unveils new location proposal south of earlier plan
By Stanley Ziemba
The Chicago (IL) Tribune

The commission created by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to oversee
construction of the proposed south suburban airport near Peotone on Thursday
unveiled a revised location plan for the commercial airfield to avoid
possible conflict with a nearby airport and enhance its attractiveness to

The plan, along with one put together by the Illinois Department of
Transportation, will be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration
early next year, which will conduct environmental-impact studies on both and
decide which one works best.

Under the revision proposed by the Abraham Lincoln National Airport
Commission, the inaugural airfield would be about 3,000 feet south of the
location proposed by IDOT, officials said.

That would place the airport's inaugural east-west runway closer to
Peotone/Church Road and a little more than a half-mile south of Eagle Lake
Road between Western and Crawford Avenues in unincorporated Will Township,
commission officials said.

Relocating the runway and terminal would prevent it from interfering with
operations at Bult Field, a newly refurbished and expanded general-aviation
airport within the footprint and just north of the proposed airfield, said
Rick Bryant, the commission's executive director. It also would provide
greater environmental protection for Black Walnut Creek, a stream on the
east side of the footprint, Bryant said.

"Our main objective [in revising the layout] was to have the airfield be
more commercially appealing to the private sector, which someday will
finance the $300 million project," said Bryant, who also is an
administrative assistant to Jackson.

"But beyond that, the new layout enhances public safety, permits a long-term
coexistence with Bult Field, increases protection for the creek and provides
more room than IDOT's plan for expanding passenger and cargo services in the
future, which will create more local jobs," Bryant said.

Bryant said that airport commission recognizes the sizable investment owner
Jim Bult has made in upgrading Bult Field. It's estimated Bult is putting in
some $25 million in upgrades, including eight new hangars and a
5,000-foot-long, concrete runway.

"We want to ensure that his airport can operate safely and coexist with a
larger commercial airport for years to come," Bryant said.

IDOT's site plan and the commission's revised plan will be the subject of a
public hearing from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday in Beecher Community High School. A
decision by the FAA is expected to take about 18 months, Bryant said.

Separately, the Will County Board's Executive Committee Thursday endorsed a
resolution demanding that IDOT stop contacting property owners in the
footprint of the proposed airport who are not interested in selling their
homes to the state.

The committee took the action despite warnings from some committee staff
members that if IDOT cannot contact owners of targeted property, the agency
might have no choice but to condemn the properties.

The resolution came in the wake of a Dec. 1 altercation between a property
owner near Beecher and a demolition crew hired by the state to tear down
homes IDOT acquired previously. The incident further angered opponents of
the airport.

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