RICH JAMES: NIMBYs make false link between Illiana, Peotone airport

2013-07-31T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: NIMBYs make false link between Illiana, Peotone airportBy Rich James nwitimes.com
July 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I suspect the south Lake County NIMBYs were ecstatic last week when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to give the Illinois Department of Transportation the power to build an airport at Peotone.

The NIMBYs (not in my back yard), who are opposed to virtually anything new, have been saying for years that the construction of the Illiana Expressway is little more than an Illinois ploy to launch a major airport near Peotone.

The proposed highway would run from Interstate 65 west through Peotone — and as a result put a dagger in the future of the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

At least that is what the NIMBYs — who don’t give a hoot about the Gary airport — want you to believe.

I hate to put a damper on the NIMBYs' party, but there’s a better chance the Cubs will win the World Series than there is for a Peotone airport.

The fanfare surrounding Quinn’s signing of the Peotone bill is all bluster and politics.

The reality is that Quinn is running for his life. He isn’t viewed as much of a leader and will do virtually anything for votes — including giving the people false hope about Peotone.

Democrat William Daley likely will beat Quinn in the primary. If that doesn’t happen, the Republican nominee will beat Quinn in the fall. Democrats know that.

Giving the Illinois Department of Transportation the power to build an airport means little. The Federal Aviation Administration would have to give its OK, and that isn’t likely to happen.

The reason Peotone continues to be a subject of discussion — not action — is that former Mayor Richard M. Daley didn’t want a Peotone airport taking money out of Chicago. I suspect Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama feel the same way.

And there are more reasons.

An airline would have to be interested in Peotone. That’s not likely in that the airlines are hurting as passenger traffic has been declining.

Also, the feds — thanks to Rep. Pete Visclosky — have been pouring millions into the $166 million runway expansion project at Gary, which has wonderful access.

Gary, unlike Peotone, is a prime location to serve as a cargo hub. Moving goods from Gary by rail or ship is as good as it gets.

When the Gary runway expansion is complete, even the largest and heaviest aircraft will be able to land and take off.

Carrie Hightman, a Gary Airport Board member, may have put it best, saying, “We have a functioning airport. They have a cornfield.”

While we may never quiet the NIMBYs, can’t we all collectively own up to the fact that a Peotone airport won’t be built — with or without the Illiana Expressway?

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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