April 12, 2001

Aviation chairwoman checks out Gary

Hamos looks for short-term answer to airport congestion

Thursday, April 12, 2001

By Kristi O'Brien

An airport fact-finding tour by an Illinois politician led to an invitation for Northwest Indiana leaders to testify before the Illinois House Committee on Aviation.

Illinois state Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), chairwoman of the aviation committee, met Wednesday with Gary Mayor Scott King and airport administrator Paul Karas to learn more about Gary/Chicago Airport and what its role can be in relieving Chicago's busy airports.

"She's very regional in her thinking in terms of transportation," King said. "It was a very good meeting. I was very impressed with her."

The meeting is a precursor to an aviation committee meeting on May 1 that King and Karas will attend to discuss Gary as the third regional airport.

The committee also will hear from representatives from O'Hare, Midway, Peotone, Milwaukee and Rockford.

Steve Brown, who was also at the meeting and is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, said the meeting is a chance to look at short- and long-term options for air traffic relief in the Chicago area.

"There are a lot of different ideas of what ought to be done in the northeastern part of Illinois about air travel and airport development," he said. "The governor has a plan that doesn't do a lot about short-term congestion relief. Gary, Milwaukee and Rockford are up and running. (The committee) wants to look at near-term vs. longer-range options."

King said Gary representatives will use the committee meetings as a chance to promote the Gary airport as the best option.

"Our hope would be ... we're going to be able to present ourselves as the best alternative in a realistic fashion to provide additional air transportation capacity for the larger Chicago metropolitan area," he said.

He said he is confident Hamos will make an informed decision on which is the best option.

"I certainly view her as having an open mind. She struck me as a person who isn't going to make up her mind until she has all the facts," he said.

Brown said Hamos visited the Gary airport because she had never been there before.

"The Gary airport is part of the aviation infrastructure in this region.

"That's probably a story that needs to be told to more people in Illinois as to what's available," he said. "It's able to handle large-scale aircraft, which is more than I can say about Peotone."

[Chicago ATC News]