May 10, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times

McCain brings aviation battle to Chicago

May 10, 2001


Sen. John McCain will bring a congressional transportation panel to Chicago in mid-June to consider alternatives to adding more Chicago area aviation capacity, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

McCain (R-Ariz.) is chairman and Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) is a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the nation's aviation system. The hearing comes at a time when congestion at O'Hare Airport is playing a major role in the nation's aviation delay crisis and as Gov. Ryan and Mayor Daley are deadlocked over a solution.

"I hope to have a full airing on the pluses and minuses of the various proposals to increase aviation capacity in Chicago," said Fitzgerald, a die-hard foe of O'Hare expansion.

McCain has no position on whether O'Hare should be expanded or a new area airport should be built. He pushed to lift federal flight caps at O'Hare over the objections of Fitzgerald, who filed 304 amendments in an unsuccessful attempt to block the legislation. The caps will be phased out by July 2, 2002.

The aviation subcommittee of McCain's panel will hold a hearing this morning on government and industry efforts to solve air traffic control delays. Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey is scheduled to testify.

Fitzgerald and Ryan favor building an airport near south suburban Peotone, while Daley supports more runways at O'Hare. Meanwhile, Rockford and Gary are trying to persuade the FAA and airlines to use their airports to relieve crowding.

The airport issues are among the most politically sensitive in the state, and pressure is building nationally for Ryan and Daley to compromise.

Iowa Senators Charles Grassley, a Republican, and Tom Harkin, a Democrat, are moving ahead on legislation that would strip Ryan of his power to veto new O'Hare runways. Fitzgerald and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) oppose the maneuver.

[Chicago ATC News]