May 16, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times

Philip sees O'Hare long shot

May 16, 2001


SPRINGFIELD--Longtime critics of O'Hare Airport might submit to a new runway if the city of Chicago could guarantee an ironclad cap on flights and assure jet noise wouldn't increase over the suburbs, the Senate's top Republican said Thursday.

"If there's a cap on it, and you wouldn't see any growth in flights and there would be less noise, they might agree to it," Senate President James "Pate" Philip (R-Wood Dale) said.

But Philip, who has opposed new runways even in the face of mounting delays, considers any such tradeoff a long shot, saying the idea would have to be blessed by mayors surrounding O'Hare before he would endorse it.

His comments came after business leaders took the unprecedented step of taking out full-page ads in Chicago and Springfield newspapers, urging lawmakers to address the runway issue in the closing days of the General Assembly's spring session.

They also follow a WBBM-Channel 2/Chicago Sun-Times poll Tuesday that showed the most-favored response to mounting airport delays is a new runway at O'Hare.

Mayor Daley once offered to cap the number of flights at O'Hare in a failed attempt to persuade Philip and other Republican legislative leaders to support his 1992 proposal to build a third airport at Lake Calumet.

Daley indicated Tuesday he is not about to put a runway plan on the table. "Two weeks before the General Assembly adjourns? Thanks a lot," the mayor told a reporter.

Pressed on whether he would be willing to guarantee that a new runway would be used only for delay relief and not additional flights, Daley did not rule it out. "That would have to be decided. I don't know. We'd have to work with the FAA."

Bensenville Village President John Geils, chairman of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, said he sees no way the city would voluntarily limit flights into and out of O'Hare, so there is no reason for him or other mayors to endorse new runways.

"Unequivocally no. I can't foresee any scenario," Geils said.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who favors new runways at O'Hare, said such intransigence may mean Congress will foist its own solution onto the region's aviation stalemate.

"I think there are a lot of Illinoisans who have their heads in the sand, and they fail to recognize that O'Hare is part of a national transportation system," Madigan said. "There are just too many people who are spending too much time at O'Hare and reporting that to their legislators and to their political people in states all across the country."

Contributing: James Fuller

[Chicago ATC News]