Runway politics, runaway politics

1997-10-13T00:00:00Z Runway politics, runaway politics nwitimes.com
October 13, 1997 12:00 am

The issue: FAA's decision to remove the Peotone airport proposal from its

planning list

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

site.

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

them.

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.

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