Anyone who has followed Lake County and region politics is familiar with the silo mentality -- the staunch unwillingness that often occurs when communities have the ability to work together but choose to hold on to "what is theirs." Some cities, towns and political organizations do this even if the greater good of the people could be served in a better, more efficient and cost effective manner by cooperation.
For years, we have been seeing a stubborn, silo mentality exhibited by Illinois when it comes to the establishment of a third regional airport. Despite not having a single brick, patch of asphalt or square-foot of concrete poured for it, some Illinois officials remain steadfast in the notion of building this third airport in south suburban Peotone.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed a bill that gives the Illinois Department of Transportation the power to build an airport in Peotone. Quinn announced $71 million in funding to buy all the land needed for the South Suburban Airport.
This is a waste of time and money, and the leaders backing it need to wake up. If a third airport is going to take hold in greater Chicagoland, why is it so difficult for them to look a bit further east to the already existing Gary/Chicago International Airport?
The Gary facility already is functioning, already has a runway and has enjoyed federal support and grants aimed at expansion. There is no doubt the Gary airport has experienced its share of stumbling blocks. We recently learned that a long-awaited $166 million expansion will be further delayed because of pollution in the runway expansion area and problems with nailing down essential agreements with railroads. We also have seen six airlines establish service and then pull the plug on service in Gary in the last 14 years. Gary airport officials have some tough work ahead of them to make that facility the economic engine it can be.
But brick and mortar already are in place in Gary. The proposed Peotone site is still an empty field -- in a state that has far more economic challenges today than Indiana.
Illinois' cash-flow problem has been very well noted of late. Illinois has so little cash and so great a budget deficit, one has to question the logic of appropriating millions or more for an airport that currently exists in name and proposed location only.
All hope of a sensible solution is not lost. Illinois and Indiana have come together in a very productive spirit of cooperation regarding the slated Illiana Expressway that would span the two states and offer great transportation alternatives and potential for economic growth.
If two such different states can put aside their differences for the greater good that a new shared highway would bring, surely the two states can come together on a third airport solution. It's time to do what makes sense. It's hard to see how Illinois can afford to do anything else.