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IDOT ups the ante on Peotone airport

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

* Greg Hinz

Tucked into the $23.5 billion five-year transportation program Pritzker unveiled yesterday (see pages 10-11) was a whopping $205.5 million for road construction work on Eagle Lake Road and Interstate 57. The proposed airport site is just to the east, and even though not one spade of dirt had been turned for runways or one airline has signed up, the road work is slated to go ahead.

Included: $150 million for a new interchange on I-57 at Eagle Lake Road, between 2021 and 2025; $19.5 million for construction engineering, and $10 million for land acquisition. Add it all up and it comes to $205.5 million, enough to build a couple of new high schools on the South Side of Chicago or speed western access to O’Hare International Airport, enough to begin work on extending the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line to the south city limits, or to fund the state’s annual hike in payments to its pension funds. […]

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation confirmed the road plan increases that figure but deferred other questions to Pritzker’s media office, which said in a statement: “This funding represents an investment to promote critical economic development in the south suburbs, and the administration looks forward to continuing to discuss next steps with stakeholders.”

Maybe so. But how about guaranteeing that someone actually is going to use the proposed airfield before spending more than $200 million on roads through what now are just farm fields? As the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Howard Learner put it in an email: “Illinois has a huge backlog of vital transit, rail, highway and bridge projects that improve community mobility. . . .Unfortunately, IDOT is allocating even more public funds than the Legislature appropriated in order to support the Peotone airport project that is opposed by the leading commercial airlines and doesn’t have a viable financial plan. Illinois has higher priorities.”

The state cannot constitutionally use Motor Fuel Tax revenues to build schools or fund the pension systems. But the caution urged here is legit. There is literally nothing at that proposed Eagle Lake Road interchange. If the airport is never built, it’ll be an exit to nowhere. And our other transportation needs are, indeed, very large.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - SW - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    Who owns the property at the proposed intersection and road?

  2. - Blue Dog Dem - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:21 pm:

    If you build it, they will come. Maybe.

    At least MidAmerica helped save SAFB.

  3. - SouthSide Markie - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    This is a bit of appeasement to South Suburban mayors who still believe that an airport is the answer to all of their economic problems. The chances for that ended with the Great Recession. Even if it hadn’t, I have trouble understanding how an airport in Peotone is going to help troubled communities like Phoenix and Robbins, which both have crumbling infrastructure. It’s long been time to move on.

  4. - SSL - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    I hope this is more than some longshot bet. There must be some thought that this could really happen.

    Would love to see that area develop into a major business transportation hub. Moving goods throughout the midwest, mega warehouses etc.

    A man can dream. I just hope it isn’t a $200 million dollar pipe dream.

  5. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:31 pm:

    Agree with SW. Who owns the land nearby? And have any parcels changed hands recently? That’ll tell you more about what’s going to happen there than anything else. If it’s just farmland that hasn’t changed hands recently, then it’s probably for Peotone

  6. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    Absolutely find out who owns land Hastert made a killing off farmland for the Prairie State highway that was never built
    These projects never die. I am surprised that no funds for Illiana expressway. And I bet Route 53 extension back in a few years

  7. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:37 pm:

    === Your thoughts? ==

    Peotone is not a south suburb. That throws everything else they are doing into doubt.

  8. - Enviro - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    ==Add it all up and it comes to $205.5 million, enough to build a couple of new high schools on the South Side of Chicago ==

    Or $205.5 million could even fund smaller classes for grades K-3 in the Southside schools of CPS.

  9. - A Jack - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    Won’t that airport make traffic that much worse at I57 and I80? Traffic is already horrendous in that area. The money could be better spent relieving some of that traffic congestion in that area before projects that make traffic worse.

  10. - K3 - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:43 pm:

    I love how whenever any development is proposed for the Southland, the immediate reaction is that it’s a waste of money. Massive public investment constantly goes to the north and west of the city, it’s about time someone does something for the south suburban region.

  11. - former will county resident - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:43 pm:

    maybe that’ll be the entrance/exit ramps from 57 to the Illiana

  12. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    If you ever want to see a fun example of this, look west of NIU on Google Maps. They bought a large plot of farmland and built several long roads (with roundabouts), without building anything around it. I’ve heard rumors over the years about what it was funded by (some say federal research dollars), but they never had the funds to actually maximize the roads.

  13. - Dybalaton - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:51 pm:

    Peotone is absolutely a suburb of Chicago. It’s in Will County which is part of the Chicago MSA. Regardless, no airport needs to be built down there. There is no demand.

    Agreed, the money would be better spent paying down the pension debt.

  14. - From DaZoo - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:53 pm:

    There is an airport, of sorts, there. It’s called Bult Field. IDOT purchased it in 2014.

  15. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:56 pm:

    ===the money would be better spent paying down the pension debt===

    For the umpteenth time, you cannot legally use MFT revenues to fund the pension systems. Stop it or find yourself banned.

  16. - JIbba - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 2:59 pm:

    They made a big deal of saying that bulk of the money is being used for maintenance of upkeep of roads and bridges, with a much smaller amount for new construction. This is $200M of new construction money that should be reallocated to an actual need. This is pure pork as most people define it.

  17. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:02 pm:

    Beyond who owns the property, who has options to purchase the property in the future?

  18. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:02 pm:

    I think the state could segregate DOT into a legally (but not practically) separate pension plan and fund their pension out of road money.

  19. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:04 pm:

    “Illinois leaders say more than 2,500 bridges in Illinois need improvements. . .The report says 150 of the affected bridges are on interstates, while other[s are] on smaller roads.” Can’t we at least fix those before spending hundreds of millions on a road of questionable value?

  20. - City Zen - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:06 pm:

    How does building a new airport align with this administration’s environmental goals?

  21. - Amalia - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:09 pm:

    United and American have already said no to working out of this airport. Midway is not going anywhere. Gary is nearby with some passenger service. Rockford just made big announcements on freight. unless there is some freight plan coming, why? why? why?

  22. - Benjamin - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:14 pm:

    ===I love how whenever any development is proposed for the Southland, the immediate reaction is that it’s a waste of money. Massive public investment constantly goes to the north and west of the city, it’s about time someone does something for the south suburban region.===

    That’s because those areas are already growing. Sending infrastructure funds to jumpstart development in an economically stagnant area (like the south suburbs) only makes sense if you’re unlocking some pent-up demand or removing a bottleneck that’s restricting growth.

    If there was demand for a third commercial airport or a cargo airport south of Chicago, Chicago/Gary Airport (which is already built, and at another state’s expense, too) would have already fulfilled it. And the Illiana Expressway would move fewer vehicles than Chicago’s Irving Park Road daily, while costing taxpayers half a billion dollars. Surely we can make better infrastructure investments in the south suburbs than these.

  23. - Ghantt Chart - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    Midway is landlocked, can’t expand, and the final approach paths aircraft have to use don’t have safe land use clearances; they’re a potential crash disaster waiting to happen. They could move air cargo traffic to Peotone to relieve ORD and allow improvements in passenger service there.

  24. - AC - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:33 pm: would be a better use of funds. The website is worth checking out if for no other reason than to see the last update date as well as the outdated names on the banner at the top of the pages.

  25. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:43 pm:

    Why would a State that believes so much in the Green New Deal put any money into another airport? Whether it is in Rockford, Peotone, or anywhere else you should oppose it based on your support of the Green New Deal.
    Spend those dollars on new mass transit lines and bike paths only.

  26. - d. p. gumby - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:54 pm:

    Perhaps road construction will promote development other than an airport??

  27. - Ole Blue Eyes - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    Come fly with me

  28. - Benjamin - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    ===They could move air cargo traffic to Peotone to relieve ORD and allow improvements in passenger service there.===

    Any argument for building the South Suburban Airport needs to answer the question, “What would this airport bring to the table that the existing airports in Gary and Rockford can’t?” Because
    GYY, RFD, and the proposed Peotone airport are all approximately the same driving distance (measured in minutes) from O’Hare. If air freight hasn’t moved to existing airports yet, it means they probably don’t want to go. And if the state or federal government wants to mandate that air freight move from O’Hare, it’s going to be a lot easier to move them to existing airports than spend the time and money building a redundant one.

  29. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:08 pm:

    1. Air travel has as much opportunity to become “green” in the future as other modes, if batteries keep getting more lightweight and powerful. As an aside, I would bet our automotive fleet will be 50% electric before the freight railroads are 10% electric.
    2. Best strategy here would be to wait till the environmental study is complete, put the project out for public-private development, and see who bites and how attractive it will be. I think there is plenty of opportunity for air cargo growth in Chicago, but don’t spend the $ on the interchange unless there is a solid business plan in place. We have too many white elephants already.
    3. Speaking of white elephants in Will County, the Metra extension from Oak Forest to Manhattan cost $198 million and serves less than 80 boardings and alightings a day.

  30. - Frank Talks - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    Whole conversation reminds me of the Talking Heads song

  31. - The Bashful Raconteur - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    No. Terrible waste of money. Way too many identified needs and mass trans is #1. Stop the third airport nonsense.

  32. - Fav human - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    Amazon warehouse site, maybe? Can’t think of anything else that is likely.

    Airport really seems not viable

  33. - wndycty - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:18 pm:

    As folks consider who will fly there they keep looking at the wrong carriers. Of course American, United, Southwest and many of the carriers who fly into ORD and MDW are not targets, BUT look to the airlines that cannot get gate space at either airport or who have limited gate space. Additionally, I would expect that there will be a decent amount of air cargo, there is a major Amazon facility nearby.

  34. - CEA - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:19 pm:

    Don’t take this as a ringing endorsement of the Peotone airport or the Illiana Expressway, but the recent intermodal terminal and distribution center growth in the Southland has made the concepts of a freight reliever airport and an I-55-57-65 connection down there somewhat less ridiculous than they seemed a decade or so ago.

  35. - Eastern Will County - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:41 pm:

    A cargo airport won’t be much of an economic boost, and its benefits will be outweighed by the detriments. One of the biggest financial benefits of the Chicago airports are taxes on concessions. Will County won’t get that.

    Further, cargo will only serve to devastate the area with truck traffic, which is already an absolute nightmare. People in Elwood have learned that basing your economy on intermodal/truck traffic is a HUGE mistake.

    By the way, I don’t hear Amazon, UPS, or any other freight company lining up to use Peotone. If they wanted it, the could/should/would pay for it.

    Don’t forget that the Kankakee area has its own airport which has a runway big enough to land 737s.

    As for Bult Field, it’s a tiny airport that services mostly Cessna-type aircraft. That effectively is the south suburban airport as it is own by the state.

    The money would be better spent on improving roads and bridges in Will County that have been absolutely devastated by truck traffic. Also, the I57-I80 interchange often gets backed up as far as the eye can see, and again just south of there when I57 goes from 3 lanes to 2.

    This thing is a joke and it always has been. Anyone with a real business background should know this is a joke. And it has hurt people who live in the area because it’s been hanging over the heads for years.

  36. - Jake From Elwood - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 4:54 pm:

    They have a huge amazon warehouse just north in Monee and more warehouses in the works. This stretch of I-57 is going to be warehouse city in a few years just like I-355 south is becoming.
    Not sure that increased truck traffic equates to a need for more air traffic.
    A friend that lived in the airport area cashed out quite a few years ago at a nice price and is still living off the largess…

  37. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 5:35 pm:

    “They could move air cargo traffic to Peotone to relieve ORD and allow improvements in passenger service there.” Yeah, I’m sure all the logistics facilities created in the NW burbs for freight would be so up for losing that. can you hear the screaming from Elk Grove Village?

  38. - Amalia - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 5:36 pm:

    sorry, the last anonymous was me.

  39. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 6:45 pm:

    You could widen 200 miles of downstate arterial to 3 lanes with that money. It will need FHWA approval
    Is this the objective criteria?

  40. - Froganon - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 7:58 pm:

    An airport at Peotone will require massive infratstructlure spending to be viable. We can no longer afford to build massive new projects while our existing transit, road and bridges collapse from age and neglect. That money should go to repair existing road/bridges.

  41. - Just Sayin ... - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 10:49 pm:

    Nothing knew. Someone should ask how much planning funds were spent on the Illiana corridor. $100 million for a road that may not be built.

  42. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 11:15 pm:

    ==Who owns the property at the proposed intersection and road?==
    If the Feds weren’t so busy raiding offices, maybe they could look into this.

    But “waste and corruption” doesn’t even have to be that insidious - could be that this is simply 200M of extra payback for the 150 guys, for their support for Pritzker’s election. When your hands are really dirty, “One hand washing the other” is simply business as usual.

  43. - Southland Gal - Wednesday, Oct 23, 19 @ 4:44 am:

    I actually use many of the rural roads in Will County surrounding the airport. Not all are paved roads. An exit makes sense for those who use the roads out in our neck of the woods.

  44. - Jim - Wednesday, Oct 23, 19 @ 8:52 am:

    A road to nowhere…Alaska has nothing on Illinois.

  45. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Oct 23, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Terrible idea years ago and it remains a bad one. And now another $200 million invested is making it even worse.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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