Jun 12, 2008 Comments Off on ‘An Airport to Nowhere’
While skyrocketing oil prices and a growing airline industry crisis steadily overwhelm prospects for an airport in Peotone, local opponents of the megaproject are planning a community cleanup on Saturday to remove trash and debris from IDOT’s demolition of farmhouses in the proposed airport’s footprint.
“We’re cleaning up the toe jam in the footprint,” said Anthony Rayson of Shut This Airport Nightmare Down.
They’ll meet Saturday, June 14 at 10 a.m. at the corner of Egyptian Trail and Eagle Lake Road, opposite a farmhouse taken over by IDOT (now fenced in with barbed wire and under 24-hour guard).
Will Township is providing a pickup truck and dumpster and a STAND member is bringing a frontloader. “IDOT bulldozed the farmhouses and barns that they acquired and it left a lot of wood and debris,” said Rayson. “There was insulation blowing through the fields.” And people who think the area is abandoned have begun dumping garbage there, he said.
“Parts of the area look very blighted,” said George Ochsenfeld of STAND.
Local Cub Scouts have been invited to conduct a flag ceremony. “On Flag Day we’ll demonstrate what real citizens do — work together and help each other,” said Rayson. “Not destroy the community, like the government wants to do.”
Airport project ‘dead’
They’ll also take the opportunity to “raise the issue of this endless land grab and waste of taxpayer money,” Rayson said. “No Airport” signs are being constructed for distribution Saturday. Rayson calls it “an airport to nowhere.”
The Peotone airport “was already on life support” but the airline industry crisis “kills it entirely,” said Ochsenfeld. “It’s dead — though no elected official wants to admit it — but it will always be a ghost haunting property owners here. The threat of an airport depresses property values and stresses people out.”
The biggest obstacle to the project all along was total lack of support from airlines. A point-to-point airport as proposed has no place in a hub-and-spoke air travel system, Ochsenfeld said.
Political disputes over control of the airport authority erupted again this week when U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. charged that political operator Antoin Rezko represented Governor Blagojevich in a meeting on proposed legislation in June 2006.
The state announced it was submitting a runway plan to the FAA in March, but certification could take years. If federal funds are involved, an environmental impact study will be required, including consideration of alternatives.
IDOT also initiated a new round of land acquisition in the 5,225 acre “starter airport” footprint. Almost 40 percent of that area has been acquired to date, according to reports.
The Peotone Airport was originally proposed to have six runways and cover 20,000 acres — over three times the size of O’Hare. A smaller “starter” effort was launched after the O’Hare expansion was approved. But it was only a $75 million appropriation for “land banking” in Gov. George Ryan’s Illinois FIRST program which got things rolling.
Driven by politics
“The project was always politically driven, not market driven,” said Ochsenfeld.
“It’s a pipe dream of south suburban politicians who are jealous of O’Hare and the Tollway and want their own money-making, job-dealing proposition,” said Rayson.
Millions of dollars already spent by the state on consultants and lawyers have made the project a “lucrative cottage industry” for political insiders, said Rayson. “Taxpayer money should be used for projects that benefit citizens – not to line the pockets of the politically connected,” he said.
Will County’s existing roads and bridges could certainly use the money, he said.