If ever there was a clear-cut measure of human folly–among contractors, politicians, planners, pressmen, and their electronic-media counterparts–the proposed airport in Peotone would well exemplify its perfect example. Your cover story by Robert Heuer [“Runway Inflation,” March 15], which might better have been titled “Flying Blind,” highlighted both the ignorance and manipulative skill of Illinois politicians who, in the service of contractor and real estate interests, would blithely squander a full quadrant of relatively unspoiled air, water, and land to sprawling development.
That this folly would be supported by governors Edgar and Ryan was to be expected. They know which side their bread is buttered on. DOT’s Kirk Brown, likewise. But the holier-than-thou Jesse Jackson Jr.? Oblivious to the environmental issues surrounding development, he sees jobs for constituents as all that matters. And the well-respected Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission? Why do they support the new airport? Because “Governor Edgar told them so.” This is what was said in a public meeting held on 3/13/97 in conjunction with DOT’s presentation of its 2020 transportation plan.
There are other players in this farce that went unmentioned by Robert Heuer. In reputational free fall, ex-senator Alan Dixon supports an airport in Peotone. For a hefty fee, I might add. Senator Dick Durbin, with finger raised to the wind, is sitting on the proverbial fence. The Tribune editorial board, as much in thrall to the moneyed classes as any politician, has lately demonstrated impatience with those who would block an airport in south-suburban Peotone: “One more time: Close the deal,” the headline said.
The costs of a third airport–in terms of environmental degradation, related infrastructural development, and the airport itself–would be enormous; the benefits–questionable. The truth is we don’t need an airport in Peotone. With the construction of additional runways at O’Hare and the diversion of short-range flights to Midway, most delays–except those related to the weather–would be alleviated. With the introduction of large-capacity airbuses connecting Chicago with world capitals and high-speed trains connecting Chicago with nearby cities, the so-called “crisis in capacity” would dissolve into thin air. We should deep-six a third airport, for, as Jack Mabley in Heuer’s article suggested, we’ve more pressing needs to think about. Let’s get to them.