New $11.6M airport road overpass named for Tuskegee airman, Gary leader Quentin P. Smith

2013-05-14T15:40:00Z 2013-05-14T15:47:18Z New $11.6M airport road overpass named for Tuskegee airman, Gary leader Quentin P. SmithChelsea Whittington | Director of Communications for the City of Gary nwitimes.com

GARY | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson joined the board of directors of The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority and other city and regional dignitaries today to dedicate the new $11.6 million Airport Road overpass in honor of World War II Tuskegee Airman Quentin P. Smith, long-time Gary leader, educator and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.

The new Quentin P. Smith Tuskegee Airman Memorial Bridge marks a significant milestone in the airport’s $166 million expansion project scheduled to be completed this year and is emblematic of the commitment of city and regional leaders to develop the airport – Chicago’s real third airport – and the surrounding area for good-paying jobs and sustainable growth.

“In war and in peace, Quentin P. Smith was a hero; he bravely defended our nation, stood up against segregation, and throughout his stellar career he unselfishly served the community as a civic leader, educator and mentor,” Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. “For his significant contributions to our nation, our state and our city, we dedicate this new overpass in his name – Quentin P. Smith – and celebrate a major milestone in the expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport.”

Mayor Freeman-Wilson thanked leaders of the City of Gary, the Airport Authority, Lake County, Indiana and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) for their leadership in making the Quentin P. Smith Tuskegee Airman Memorial Bridge a reality.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority funded construction of the $11.6 million overpass.

“When I think of the Tuskegee airmen and a man like Quentin P. Smith, I can’t help but think of hard-fought progress and the need we all have to gain opportunities to prove ourselves,” Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA said. “As inspiring as Mr. Smith’s life story is, his legacy sets the bar very high. It will be incumbent upon us to honor his memory by doing our part to develop Gary/Chicago International Airport to its fullest potential.”

A B-25 bombardier with the legendary black World War II Tuskegee Airman Army Air Corps, 1st Lieutenant Smith and 100 black officers were arrested at Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana for defying orders not to enter the officer’s club. After his military career, Smith went on to become the first principal of West Side High School in Gary. Smith was born in Weldon, Texas on July 30, 1918 and died January 25, 2013 at the age of 94.

Throughout his distinguished career Smith also served on the boards of numerous colleges, military, religious, and civic organizations including service on the Gary Common Council, chairman of the board of trustees of Calumet College, and president of the board of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.

“We honor Quentin Smith for his dedicated service to the Airport Authority and salute him for his unwavering commitment to education and service to others,” Nathaniel T. Williams, president of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority Board said.

In addition to the opening of the Airport Road overpass and the major runway expansion underway, the Airport Authority is currently conducting an exploration of a potential public-private partnership to invest in the airport to accelerate the competiveness of the airport, the City of Gary, and the region in the global economy.

“We are diligently examining the potential for a public-private partnership to infuse more economic development into the airport and the surrounding area to create quality jobs in Gary and throughout the region,” Williams said. “We are looking at the best ways to attract private sector investors and maintain local public control.”

The Gary/Chicago International Airport is less than 30 minutes from the heart of the tri-state region – the city of Chicago. The airport is directly connected to Chicago’s transportation network through rail freight, interstate and mass transit integration.

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