Fifteen years after the Federal Aviation Administration set a 2015 deadline for longer runway safety areas at airports nationwide, the task of expanding the main runway at the Gary/Chicago International Airport is nearly complete. It’s been neither easy nor cheap, but major construction projects in highly urbanized and industrialized areas rarely are.
Electrical substations and oil tanks have been moved or rebuilt. Power lines have been buried and water lines have been moved. New train tracks have been laid and signal equipment installed. A new vehicle overpass is complete. Old vacant properties have been purchased, cleaned up and put to new use. Tons of trash and contaminated material has been dug up and hauled away. The extended runway is beginning to take shape.
There are still some last hurdles to jump – cleanup of an old Superfund site and final agreements with the railroads on the transfer of their service to the new tracks – but the successful completion of the project is finally in sight.
Yet it seems that with every step we take toward finishing the job, the negative voices grow louder.
I get it. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback. Some people have been doing that since the first dollar was spent on the new runway. And in all fairness, the airport has not had a history of success.
But the runway is going to get done, and the in the meantime the groundwork is being laid for the marketing and sales effort behind Gary’s newest product.
Is it all going to be smooth sailing from here? No, of course not. But the progress is real, and the results are beginning to show.
There is still much to be done. But we are already on the brink of accomplishing a runway expansion once believed impossible. We have cleaned up decades of pollution and set a stage for economic development that’s attractive enough to catch the attention of the private sector even with a nine-figure price tag attached.
As of today, the airport will have a new board of directors armed with new tools with which to go to market. This board will need time, but we’ve done everything we set out to do so far, and have no intention of stopping now.
Although I cannot predict the future, I can promise continued disappointment if we continue to focus our energy on local turmoil. There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I say that we have built a new runway, and now let’s support the new board of directors in building an airport.