Jesse Jackson Jr. lead the symbolic groundbreaking for the Peotone Airport yesterday (also known as Abraham Lincoln National, not to be confused with Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield), he of course surrounded himself with Chicago ministers and other yes men and believers in this project that makes Alaska's bridge to nowhere seem like a great idea.
I have followed this saga of this pie in the sky airport since 1998 and even then with a better economy, a bigger demand for air travel and reasonable people supporting this project it was still something that made you scratch your head.
I know the idea for this airport strectches back over 30 years and it was one of several puzzling locations, including former Chicago majors Richard J. Daley's idea for a airport in the lake and Richard M. Daley's idea for an airport near the Chicago trash dump near 130th & Doty Road on the far south east side.
The fact is this aiport is not fully federally funded, nor has the Federal Aviation Administration completed their review of this project. Originally AECom (the engineering firm), did their masterplan for it but to my knowledge they have not done anything further with this and for most reasonable people this project is at best "on hold" and at worst "dead until futher notice".
But Rep Jackson is trying to make a name for himself (he should be worried about the calvary coming for him for his role in trying to acquire the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama), and uses the same tactics as his media hungry father who never misses a photo op yet its hard to pinpoint any tangible difference he has made in anyone's life outside of his own, his children and constituents.
Its important to realize those of us who are Will County residents how this will affect our quality of life. The acreage for this project is large and affects everyone from Monee & University Park through Peotone and all the way south to the Kankakee County border. We simply don't have the infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc), in place for something like this, not to mention that is prime farm land that has been in families for generations. This is not an industrial area, not even a commercial area, most of Will County (outside of the northeastern part), is rural farm land and smaller towns.
The sitework, and civil work to support this project would be staggering and guess who would be stiffed with the bill, yes those of us who call Will County home. We'd be stuck with an extra lane or two Interstate 57, proposed developments along Manhattan Monee road that would never happen and a change to the way of life out here that has been the same for over a century. Most of our school districts can't pass referendum for needed upgrades for education, yet then we'd have to contend with this monstrosity,
Of course there is the promise of jobs but really how many of those could the average guy get? The construction jobs for a project that are politicaly connected, a large Chicago construction company like Walsh, James McHugh or Kenny would get it. And once the airport is built let me tell you those jobs to work at an airline or concessions or even fueling are close to minimum wage and you can't supprt a family and pay Will County property taxes making less than $ 10.00 an hour.
Not to mention currently there is the other screwball plan for the Illiana expressway that would basically be an unecessary expressway going paralell to Insterstates 80 to the north & 74 to the south. I have traveled on those roads plenty of times, outside of larger areas of Chicago, Gary, Champaign & Indianapolis, those are not heavily used highways that need another road to travel the same path of land and disrupt more families.
Will County already has a growing population and very expensive property taxes to support our schools, we don't need the drain of a unused airport. Just check out the story of Mid America Airport near Belleville, IL in southwestern Illinois not far from St Louis along Interstate 64. It was the same thing, a railroaded plan for an airport that was THOUGHT to be needed but wasn't. They can't even keep a commerical airline in there because of the lack of passengers and demand. And its adjacent to Scott Air Force base but still not being used outside of cargo flights.
We have plenty of smaller airports in the region for that, Kankakee has a good regional airport, Lewis University has a great facility in Romeoville (the weather station is there), Clow International Airport in Bolingbrook handles a lot of smaller planes and lessons and Lansing has a nice little airport too.
And let's not forget the airport in Gary Indiana, sure its not a great area and its land locked but its an up and running airport that has handled plenty of passenger service but again doesn't have a great demand for service. And its adjacent to Interstate 80 with access to the Skyway.
And there are people using the Rockford Airport which has consistent commercial flights (and free parking), and other people go to Milwaukee to use General Mitchell Airport, we have a plethora of airport facilities in our grasp without a money grabbing, politically connected, pork project that will take up empty space and be on the front cover of several politicans yearly newsletter.
I worked at United Airlines for six years in the accounting department (2000-6), I saw the fall of the airline business after 9/11 and how less planes were needed, thus less flights, employees, etc.
And look at O'Hare International Airport and all the work that has been done to it, an extra runway, facility upgrades, and more. The City of Chicago went to court to have a Civil War era cemetery moved to make that expansion happen.
Same goes for Midway International Aiport, millions spent in upgrades, a new rental car facility is underway over there and its near capacity with the more budget airlines and convienent location, but its not screaming out for competition or back up for its flights.
All Jesse Jackson Jr. is doing is following in his father's footsteps of grandstanding and trying to make a legacy on a flawed notion of what THEY think people want. Trust me, few people wan to drive down Interstate 57 to the middle of nowhere to take a flight, even if it was free. Think about the fuel costs involved for passangers and the airlines.
And airlines aren't backing new airports because the need is not there. If we are taking about replacement airports, that's different but remember the mismanagement of the new Denver Airport after their politicians rammed it down their throats to replace the old Stapleton Airport.
Its just more proof of the moral and financial bankruptness of this state and the politicans that take us for fools, but if Jesse Jackson jr thinks he can come down to Will County and use his father's worn out tactics to get his pet project done on our dime and displace our residents, he better do his homework and think again.