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"Residents view third Chicago-area airport plans for first time"


 
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Residents view side-by-side airport plans for first time
More than 20 residents, officials comment on which plan, if any, they favor
BY TERRIE HENDERSON
The Northwest Indiana Times

 
For the first time, the public viewed both plans for the proposed south
suburban airport in Will County side by side at a public meeting Tuesday in
Beecher.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the meeting at the old
Beecher High School gymnasium was to solicit public comments regarding the
proposed airport's configuration.

The state is preparing to submit two plans -- one created by Abraham Lincoln
National Airport Commission and one created by IDOT -- to the Federal
Aviation Administration. The FAA must conduct an in-depth study of both
plans before the airport can progress.

Currently, the airfield layout plan for both airport plans includes 20,000
acres.

The IDOT plan would require 5,225 acres of acquired land, which means
acquiring 132 parcels, or 82 residential units. The ALNAC plan would require
7,885 acres of land acquisition, which means 251 parcels, or 215 residential
units.

More than 20 people spoke regarding the two plans. Some were adamantly
opposed to either. Some favored the ALNAC's plan. Others favored the state's
plan.

Judge Edmund Bart, the hearing officer, made clear the meeting was not a
debate. He said people who did not want to speak publicly could make
comments in private in a separate room.

The ALNAC plan does not sit well with Will County Executive Larry Walsh, who
said not only would the ALNAC plan disrupt more people's lives than the
state's, "The amount of dollars that would be required for these additional
land acquisitions would be enormous."

Walsh, who called on ALNAC to withdraw its plan "so the FAA can move forward
in a timely manner to consider the IDOT proposal," said it is time for the
FAA to give Will County residents a final decision on whether an airport
will be built.

ALNAC's runway was moved farther south after recent expansions of the
privately owned Bult Field progressed within the proposed airport's
inaugural footprint, said Rick Bryant, ALNAC's executive director and
spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Bryant said ALNAC's main objective was to design an airport that offers
commercial appeal to private investors.

"But, beyond that, ALNAC believes the new layout offers significant
advantages over the other plan," Bryant said.

Bryant said those advantages include greater financial viability to attract
investors, long-term coexistence with nearby Bult Field, increased
environmental protection for Black Walnut Creek, and three runways instead
of four, as outlined in the state's plan.

He said while ALNAC's plan slightly increases the size of the inaugural
footprint, it decreases the size of the ultimate footprint, meaning less
residential impact in the long run.

Beecher resident Karen Cassin said IDOT does not have a good track record
with the citizens in eastern Will County. She said the airport is unneeded
and state officials have shown a lack of respect for residents' property.

"As long as there is red, white and blue blood in my veins, you will not
build this airport," Cassin said.

Anthony Rayson, secretary of the Dolton-based group Concerned Citizens of
the Southland, also said the south suburban airport is unneeded.

"We feel the Gary airport is the third airport, and we should be using our
resources to work with them," he said.

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