May 16, 2001 Daily Herald
Chicagoland's top execs tell Ryan to forget Peotone
Daily Herald Reports
Posted on May 16, 2001

By Jack Mabley

The Daily Herald carried a very significant document Monday.

It was the ad covering two full pages headlined: "O'Hare Needs Another Runway - Now."

The ad was signed by the heads of Chicago and suburban companies which provide jobs for a million or more of us.

United, McDonald's, Abbott, Bank One, American Airlines, Wrigley, Baxter, Allstate, Jewel, Peoples Energy, Tribune Co. That's just a short list.

These companies are Chicago, or more accurately, Chicagoland.

The execs' arguments relate to the economic damage of failure to bring O'Hare up to speed to match competing cities, most of which have expanded or are expanding their airports.

It wasn't prudent for the ad to go into politics, but politics is what's blocking progress.

Mayor Daley wants a new runway, Gov. Ryan doesn't.

Ryan wants to build a mammoth airport at Peotone, 40 miles from the Loop.

His plan was to create an international hub airport to augment or replace O'Hare.

If O'Hare gets a new runway, Ryan can forget about a hub at Peotone. That airport would become an auxiliary.

We already have three auxiliary airports. Milwaukee can serve the North and Northwest suburbs. Rockford can serve West and Northwest residents.

Gary can serve several million residents who are closer to Gary than to O'Hare.

It is senseless to pave over thousands of acres of prime farmland and displace thousands of residents, fill in 245 acres of wetlands and 225 acres of flood plain and relocate 13 miles of streams - all for a secondary airport that is a $50 cab ride from Chicago.

If Peotone were to be built, the time line is 10 years at the best, 20 years more likely.

Milwaukee, Gary and Rockford are operating today and can handle all but the largest superliners which are on the drawing boards.

Gary has expansion plans which will make it larger than Midway, at a cost of less than $800 million.

Peotone would cost billions.

Residents of suburbs near O'Hare understandably don't like the idea of more traffic at O'Hare. Many claim that Peotone would solve their problem. That argument simply defies logic.

Even if it were valid, it would take a decade or more.

It's a mystery to me why they don't back Gary. Ryan opposes Gary because he wants the billions in contracts that Peotone would provide.

I suspect he wouldn't object to the airport near his home town of Kankakee memorializing him with the George Ryan International Airport.

How about instead renaming the huge MidAmerica airport in southern Illinois near St. Louis? It is one of the biggest white elephants in aviation, but it is an airport.

Going back to Peotone, the J.R. Short Milling Co. of Chicago has five operating plants in Kankakee.

Jeff Short, head of the company, says it is "economically dependent upon corn from the immediate area.

"We produce products used on a national scale and export products made by American labor and American machinery.

"These goods go to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Latin and South America and as far as Israel and Saudi Arabia."

Short notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies the airport site as 17,165 acres of prime soil and 6,533 as important soil.

Ryan, in effect, proposes to destroy this agricultural gem with one of the most flagrant examples of urban sprawl in this nation, if not the world.

Jet aircraft would be flying over Kankakee River State Park.

At Gary the planes fly over Lake Michigan.

[Chicago ATC News]