Peotone Airport: Economic Boon or Boondoggle?
June 5, 2013
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  • Governor Pat Quinn issued a statement May 30, 2013 regarding the vote in the Illinois House to create a “public-private partnership” that will allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to proceed with the development, construction and operation of the South Suburban Airport in Will County.

    Governor Quinn’s commitment to develop a third major Chicago area airport in the south suburbs is one he has been pushing for since becoming Governor in 2009. Senate Bill 20 may launch the project that is projected to employ more than 11,000 workers to build and as many as 14,000 people after it becomes operational.

    “Today’s vote to build the third airport benefits workers, local governments, travelers, shippers and the Illinois economy,” Quinn said. “After years of pushing to make the third airport a reality in the south suburbs, we are moving forward with the development of this huge economic engine that will strengthen Illinois’ status as the transportation hub of the nation for years to come.”

    Quinn and supporters of the airport say it will bring new jobs to the southern suburbs of Chicago, while relieving critical runway and terminal congestion at O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport. A new airport would accommodate larger jet service that Midway International airport cannot offer.

    Critics believe the airport would be a failure like MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. Expanding O’Hare or other international airports in Milwaukee and Rockford is thought to be a more viable alternative as is Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Indiana.

    The proposed airport is largely unpopular with the residents of Peotone and the surrounding area. According to “Chicago Talks” (, several local farmers, like Lee Deutsche, whose farm has been around longer than four generations, are afraid that urban commercial and housing developments will overpopulate the farmland and contaminate his and other farmers’ primary source of agricultural water from the nearby Kankakee River.

    “It’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” said Deutsche, who still grows corn, soy and alfalfa. “It would cause an engine of urban sprawl that will draw people out of the south suburbs away from the communities they’re in, causing more housing, more lawns, and more air and water pollution.”

    In June 2011, then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood noted that there was little call in Washington for the Peotone airport compared to the support for the O’Hare expansion, not to mention the potential in Milwaukee, Rockford and Gary. But Quinn thinks otherwise.

    “The South Suburban Airport is uniquely positioned to capitalize on and contribute to the region’s growth by offering a flexible, convenient multi-modal solution for both businesses and passengers. This is a good day for the south suburbs and economic development in Illinois.

    “I urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to my desk.”

    SB 20 was introduced Jan 9 of this year, and approved by the Senate Feb. 13.
    It passed the House May 30, with 81 Yes, 35 No, and Speaker Madigan voting “present.”. The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval before the Governor signs it into law.

    For the record, one Republican co-sponsored the bill, Adam Brown from Champaign. Of the 81 yes votes, 12 were Republicans, including House Minority Leader Tom Cross. Of the 35 no votes, 5 were Democrats.