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Third Local Airport Still In Limbo

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 14, 2010 8:20PM

2010_12_14_peotone_airport.jpg For decades, Illinois has been talking about building a third airport in the far south suburbs. Since 2001, Illinois has slowly bought up land near Crete and Peotone to the tune of $33 million and Governor Quinn earmarked $100 million of the state budget in 2009 to grab more. But, because of political control issues and questions of whether or not the project is even worth it, any progress has almost completely stalled. Proponents of the airport suggest the project needs to move through because of the millions already spent acquiring land, the potential jobs an airport could create and the Congestion at O’Hare and Midway. Many residents however, don’t believe such a project would be such a blessing.

Airport opponents point to Illinois’ budget sinkhole, wondering how and where funding for a new airport might come from. The organization called STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) makes its case for giving up on the airport by pointing out that no major airline has financially committed to the project and that Will County property taxes will increase while local townships will lose money. In addition, some objectors have also made the notion that should the airport in neighboring Gary in Northwest Indiana finish its expansion, that airport would provide a much closer and convenient location to Chicago.

The entire debacle has paralyzed the area, with opposing forces tugging equally hard. The Southtown Star reported earlier this week on some residents who have suffered thanks to the state’s foot dragging. According to the article, several residents have been stuck in a kind of limbo - unable to sell their homes because Illinois might be the only buyer and unsure if remodeling or doing repair work would be worth it should their homes be bulldozed if the airport project ever goes through. In an interview with the Star, resident James Verduin said “The only buyer is the state, would you want to buy with that cloud over your head, knowing the state could rob you of your home and land through eminent domain- They've got us held hostage out here.”

Whether or not Illinois chooses to proceed with the airport - one thing is certain - the state needs to make up its mind soon. Court challenges, appraisers and further land grabs cost taxpayers plenty of money and the state can’t afford to spend millions more and another decade speculating.