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Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 16, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

A long-discussed proposal for a new Chicago-area airport in the south suburbs is again gaining traction, now with a focus on air cargo as e-commerce warehouses and logistics facilities have flourished in the area.

Proponents envision an airport that could take advantage of demand for quick delivery and the proliferation of Amazon warehouses, train facilities and highways in Will County. At least one developer is already interested in building out the airport and nearby warehouses, a project that would mark the culmination of the decadeslong effort to get an airport built near Peotone. […]

A bill pending in the Illinois legislature intends to get the ball rolling on the project by directing the state to start the process of soliciting proposals from developers. The goal is to determine the viability to build the airport, state Rep. Will Davis, a Democrat from Homewood who sponsored the bill, said during a hearing on the concept Wednesday. […]

The concept has also garnered support from both Chicago mayoral candidates. Brandon Johnson said during a candidate forum Thursday that transportation could serve as an anchor for an economic hub for the South Side of the city and the south suburbs, and Paul Vallas said it should be paired with expanded transit and connected to the central business district.

* Rep. Davis’ bill is on Second Reading

Defines cargo-oriented development as the development of places that are both multimodal nodes of freight transportation and centers of employment in logistics and manufacturing businesses. Provides that the Department of Transportation shall (instead of may) establish a process for prequalification of offerors. Requires the Department to commence the prequalification process within 6 months after the effective date of the amendatory Act

* Ted Slowik

Decades ago, planners pitched Peotone as a passenger facility and Chicago fought the plan to preserve interests at O’Hare and Midway.

In recent years, however, Amazon and others have driven demand for a cargo airport. O’Hare and Midway lack airspace capacity to handle additional flights, proponents say, and Rockford is too far away. Gary, Indiana, poses the biggest competitive threat to the South Suburban Airport.

[Reggie Greenwood, executive director of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation] and other boosters have publicly said investors are seriously interested in building runways and other improvements on state-owned land. The Davis bill seeks to force the state to solicit development proposals.


“Let’s see who has the capacity do it,” State Rep. Will Davis (D-30th District, East Hazel Crest) said of the intent of his bill. “If no one responds then no one responds.” […]

“We think there are some developers out there that do have the capacity and they’re ready to put pen to paper to show they have the capacity, the wherewithal and the financing to do it,” Davis said.

* Gov. Pritzker was asked about this earlier in the month…

What you don’t want is ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Right, just building the thing and hoping that people will show up to essentially pay for the airport having been built. You need to make sure that you’re building it because you have interests from cargo carriers who aren’t committing to make that a cargo airport. So if we can get that all put together, and I’ve said that from the beginning, and by the way, there’s about 10% of the property that still needs to be acquired. There’s not enough property that the state owns.

But all of that is part of a plan. But you’ve got to do the plan. That can’t be like, we’re going to just open an airport and then hope that Amazon or somebody else is going to make that a center. We have a terrific airport also in Rockford. I do not believe these things are competitive with one another. There are committed cargo carriers that are at Rockford, which is the fastest growing cargo airport in the world. And it means that cargo can be managed in another area that’s outside of that zone in the south suburbs of Chicago. And we’ll be able to sustain those companies but they have to make the commitments and the people who are putting the airport project together need to go obtain those commitments.

* The Question: Do you agree with Rep. Davis’ bill requiring the state to solicit development proposals on the proposed third airport? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


  1. - ChicagoBars - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 12:44 pm:

    Putting out a RFP can’t hurt. But is the Rockford air cargo boom been about cross dock logistics hub traffic moving stuff around the US (they take in quite a few overseas cargo flights now) or mainly serving the IL/WI/IN/IA market? I have no idea.

  2. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 12:53 pm:

    a cargo facility in the South/SW would take traffic from the NW. I’m all for that. the South airport will never support passenger traffic for a variety of reasons and cargo movement needed. easier to move the cargo to peoria etc from a new airport.

  3. - Groucho - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 12:59 pm:

    Can’t hurt to see some proposals.

  4. - South Side Cubs Fan - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:00 pm:

    I am going to dsagree with the reporting; for twenty plus years, Peotone was envisioned by most people “in the know” as a cargo airport. And it’s just as pointless now as it was then. There is an airport in Kankakee right now that has an airstrip big enough to land large commercial jets.

  5. - JS Mill - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:08 pm:

    I am a yes. The metro area is home to 9 million and has two landlocked airports.

    = and Rockford is too far away.=

    Amazon and UPS disagree. They have huge operations there. But a cargo airport to the south won’t hurt Rockford.

  6. - Anon324 - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:13 pm:

    ==Amazon and UPS disagree. They have huge operations there.==

    Yep, and the demand there is resulting in expansion, much to the dismay of conservationists.

  7. - Chito - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:23 pm:

    A cargo airport to the south is needed, as evidenced by a major carriers recent investment in Gary. If we build this, they WILL come.

  8. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:26 pm:

    = and Rockford is too far away.=

    As other note that’s silly. UPS has been in Rockford in a big way for decades. The airport is viable and should be enough on it’s own. After you fly something from California or halfway around the world another 35 minutes in the back of truck isn’t that big of a deal.

    Gary International is totally landlocked too. But if they “win” more cargo for now - good for them. The billions of dollars to build something brand new would take forever to recoup. All that cargo is coming to Illinois anyway - so we don’t get the planes landing and taking off.

  9. - Tired Teacher - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:27 pm:

    We have other parts of the state ( central and southern Illinois) that have more pressing needs. Rockford can handle the cargo needs for northern Illinois

  10. - Pundent - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:28 pm:

    A tentative yes. I’d like to see the carriers actually articulate why this makes sense as opposed to politicians. The lack of demand all these years by the carriers says something.

  11. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:50 pm:


    –There is an airport in Kankakee right now–

    What? There is an airport south of Kankakee that would be almost twice the distance to Chicago as Peotone, and is in another county. That is not a suburban location. It’s halfway to Purdue University Airport, so lets just put it there since it can land large jets too.

    When I first heard of the plans for this airport years ago, I didn’t like it, and made flippant and shallow concerns like the one above. As I learned more about the proposal, and more importantly how it interacts with the existing infrastructure already in the area, it started to make more sense.

    As time has gone on, and our commercial base has shifted from centralized to much more decentralized (think malls->Amazon delivery right to home) it not only makes sense but is becoming a requirement. The rail intermodal at Elwood is close, but handles less time-sensitive shipping as it is mostly done by train. More air cargo capacity linking into this same infrastructure would allow for more diverse and time-sensitive products to join in these infrastructure benefits.

  12. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 1:56 pm:

    According to the Economist, O’Hare is “America’s most important port, measured by value of trade.”

    That would seem like something we’d want to double down on, and grow it to its full potential by expanding regional capacity. Rockford, Gary and a south suburban cargo facility should all be able to grow and benefit from Illinois’ strategic location and access to rail and interstate access.

    No reason to limit this to only O’Hare. Do an RFP and see what ideas come back. What’s the worst that could happen?

  13. - H-W - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    Voted no on parliamentary groups.

    If the Exec is not fully committed with a plan and the Legislature is not committed with a plan, Then no.

    But this could be used to commit the Legislature which might be a good thing is both sides need more input and time.

  14. - Phineas - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 2:57 pm:

    Voted no. Don’t need more sprawl

  15. - Telly - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 3:15 pm:

    Yes. It can’t hurt. But if a cargo airport is a viable money making proposition, wouldn’t a private developer have come forward already?

  16. - Benjamin - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 3:35 pm:

    Voted yes–for an RFP, not necessarily for state funding.

    I’m very bearish on the need for an airport in Peotone–Gary has lots of excess capacity as is–but if Amazon or UPS wants to bankroll it instead of the state, they can be my guest. But Pritzker is right: “build it and they will come” isn’t going to work here.

  17. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 3:40 pm:

    I voted yes… can’t hurt, should try to see what kind of bids could be put together.

    My fear is those who could/would submit might not… because the reality of a plan, and the time put in to put one together… for something not happening… “resources put in for a job not available to win or happen”… what company will be willing to stretch resources for this?

  18. - What’s next? - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 3:53 pm:

    100% needs to be looked at. Joliet has the largest inland port with their Centerpoint intermodal, where containers are being taken off trains at nearly 1M a year. Those are then leaving and heading on 55/80/294 clogging up traffic in the region. The building of a cargo airport in Peotone coupled with the revival of the Illiana expressway between 55 and 57 would seriously decrease commuter truck traffic for the rest of us.

  19. - Huh? - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 4:31 pm:

    Yes, with qualifiers. There is no point in a rfp if a developer isn’t selected. Do it as a P3 project with the risks assigned to the developer.

  20. - Nick - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 4:54 pm:


    If Amazon or UPS or anyone else wants to discuss a cargo airport on the south side they know how to reach us.

    Otherwise it’s time to let this terrible idea for a south suburban airport finally die.

  21. - thisjustinagain - Thursday, Mar 16, 23 @ 5:26 pm:

    Anybody check with the cargo carriers and other businesses if they’ll help PAY FOR the new airport??
    For decades the answer was “NO, we’re not interested”. If that’s still the answer, there’s no need for an airport. Otherwise an RFP is just busywork for somebody in government.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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