Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s staff said Thursday it submitted a draft layout plan to the Federal Aviation Administration for a proposed third Chicago-area airport in Will County.
The act, Quinn's office says, is a “major milestone” toward eventual construction.
“The advancement of the airport approval process is good news for the south suburbs, as we continue our efforts to improve transportation, create jobs and spark economic growth across the southland region and Illinois,” Quinn said in a prepared statement.
The governor is conducting a trade mission to Brazil. He returns Sunday.
Along with the filing of the draft, the Illinois Department of Transportation made a request lawmakers appropriate $71 million that remains from $100 million dedicated for land purchases related to the proposed airport.
Officials have said it will be built in a rural area between Monee, Beecher and Peotone.
“The draft of the airport layout plan is the biggest step yet toward making the south suburban airport a reality,” state Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said.
IDOT officials have said the airport’s primary runway will be 9,500 feet long and will be built parallel to Eagle Lake Road in unincorporated Monee Township. The draft plan consists of technical drawings that depict airport infrastructure and surrounding facilities.
FAA officials say the draft plan will help determine the limits of airspace required for the proposed airport -- expected to use a 5,800-acre footprint spread over 148 parcels of land.
Earlier this month, activists and clergy from the south suburbs used a meeting of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission to complain Quinn has not done enough to advance the airport.
David Lowery, president of the south suburban chapter of the NAACP, was one of those activists. On Thursday, he called the filing of a draft plan a “step toward reality.”
But he said he and other activists who want the airport to create more jobs will not be satisfied until they see construction starting.
“Until there’s a lease signed that commits the land to an airport, there will be uncertainties,” Lowery said.
Those include questions over who owns the land the state is buying for an airport, and whether any governing board of a new airport should be dominated by Will County officials.
“Until those questions get settled, we’re no closer to having an airport than we are right now,” Lowery said.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh was not available Thursday to comment on Quinn’s latest actions.
George Ochsenfeld, president of the Monee-based Shut This Airport Nightmare Down group, said it would still take the FAA “years” to approve the draft plans, meaning “we’re still a long way” from airport construction.
“This is nothing more than the governor trying to prove he’s doing something, but he’s not,” Ochsenfeld said.