The issue: FAA's decision to remove the Peotone airport proposal from its
Our opinion: A major project that is of crucial importance to the entire
Chicago region should not be killed by partisan politics.
A new wrinkle has appeared in the struggle to have a third major airport
built in the Chicago area.
It's a huge wrinkle, really more like a concrete wall on a runway.
The Federal Aviation Administration has deleted the proposed Peotone airport
in the far south suburb from its list of planned airports and is refusing to
budge from its position.
This could mean the final, fatal blow for the star-crossed project because
the administration of Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar was hoping to have some money
from Uncle Sam for the initial expenses, and a project that is not on the list
does not get anything.
Edgar is a Republican dealing with a Democratic administration in
Washington, D.C. Within that administration is Transportation Secretary Bill
Daley, brother of Richard Daley, the Chicago mayor who does not want to have a
third airport in the region since it would compete with the two existing ones,
O'Hare and Midway, both of which are within Chicago's city limits.
In a subplot, the state of Indiana, whose Gov. Frank O'Bannon, like his
predecessor, Evan Bayh, also is a Democrat, is showing no interest in Edgar's
project. Democratic vote bank Gary is Indiana's proclaimed preference for a
third airport, even though the city has no more chance of succeeding in that
aim than Phoenix has of seeing a snowstorm.
But the federal government requires that in order for a third major airport
to be built in the region, Illinois, Indiana and Chicago have to agree on a
And Washington cites this lack of consensus, among other assorted and
assailable arguments, for its decision to ground the Peotone project, even
though it would be of great economic benefit to the whole region, particularly
the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana.
The Edgar administration has a tough situation on its hands, but it should
not give up and is not giving up. If partisan politics has entered the fray,
Edgar should enlist the support of Republican congressional leaders to
neutralize the toxin. Even among Democrats, there are people like U.S. Rep.
Jesse Jackson Jr. who are in favor of building an airport in the south suburbs
and whose intervention is needed.
Further, no federal funding does not have to mean no airport at Peotone. All
around the world, private interests are beginning to take an active interest in
the business of airports. A market like Chicago should draw at least some of
If a third major airport for the region has to be ruled out, it should be
ruled out for reasons of substance, not politics and prejudice.