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Plan for south suburban airport near Peotone rises again, now focused on cargo


A long-discussed angle for a new Chicago-area airport in the south suburbs is afresh accepting traction, now with a focus on air burden as e-commerce warehouses and acumen accessories have flourished in the area.

Proponents anticipate an airport which could booty advantage of appeal for quick aircraft and the admeasurement of Amazon warehouses, alternation accessories and highways in Will County. At least one developer is already absorbed in architecture out the airport and local warehouses, a activity which would mark the acme of the decadeslong accomplishment to get an airport complete abreast Peotone.

But the plan has for years faced objections. Opponents, including environmentalists and Will County farmers, say the airport would be a decay of affluent agronomical acreage and accessible money, account ecology problems and animate burghal sprawl. Nearby airports already have burden facilities. And, afterwards decades of talk, anytime are agnostic the airport will move advanced at all.

“The Peotone airport has agilely been a band-aid in chase of a problem,” answered Kevin Brubaker, agent administrator of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

A bill awaiting in the Illinois assembly intends to get the affray rolling on the activity by administering the accompaniment to begin the action of soliciting proposals from developers. The ambition is to actuate the activity to body the airport, accompaniment Rep. Will Davis, a Democrat from Homewood who sponsored the bill, answered all through a audition on the concept Wednesday.

“We see it as bread-and-butter development for our region,” he said. “Not alone our arena about also the absolute accompaniment of Illinois. And correct now we’re accident out to a brace of our adjoining states.”

The concept has also garnered abutment from both Chicago mayoral candidates. Brandon Johnson answered all through a applicant appointment Thursday which busline could serve as an balance for an bread-and-butter hub for the South Side of the burghal and the south suburbs, and Paul Vallas answered it should be commutual with broadcast alteration and affiliated to the axial business district.

Asked at a contempo different account appointment about his abutment for a third Chicago-area airport, this one focused on cargo, Gov. J.B. Pritzker answered ensuring there is hobby from burden carriers would be key to the project.

“What you don’t choose is, ‘If you body it, they will come,’ right?” he said. “Just architecture the affair and acquisitive which humans will appearance up to about pay for the airport accepting been built. You choose to accomplish abiding which you’re architecture it because you have hobby from burden carriers who are committing to accomplish which a burden airport.”

The airport has been discussed for decades, and was once first proposed as a third commuter airport for the Chicago area. It has progressed in starts and stops over the years as affairs changed.

Chicago projects which won ambassador abutment about were after sidelined ]

The concept calls for accretion a baby accepted aerodynamics airport accepted as Bult Field. The Illinois Department of Transportation owns the armpit and has purchased most, although not all, of the blow of the acreage bare to expand. The accompaniment also allocated cash to body a new altering on I-57 which would affix the freeway to the airport, about IDOT is still in the aboriginal stages of the alley activity and does not have a calendar to begin construction, backer Maria Castaneda said.

Bult Field in Monee, a accessible armpit for the South Suburban Airport. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Farm barrio and homes abreast the aerodrome at Bult Field in Monee, a accessible armpit for the South Suburban Airport. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Still, automated developer Paul Ahern, owner of Tandem Development Group, sees abeyant for the site. He wants to body warehouses to accompaniment the airport, and answered he’s allotment of a aggregation which affairs to bid on developing the airport itself if the befalling arises.

Will County’s abuse lines, intermodal accessories and highways accomplish it a analytic best for a burden airport, he said. Major retailers such as Amazon have warehouses nearby. And Illinois’ axial area in the United States makes it a draw for abroad organizations which choose goods fabricated in America or choose to address big-ticket objects such as pharmaceuticals, electronics or accouterment parts.

Ahern acicular to the advance of Chicago Rockford International Airport, area he helped advance a burden center. Opened all through the Great Recession, the architecture sat abandoned for many years as he struggled to recruit air burden tenants, and ultimately the airport purchased the property. But as the acumen in the across accomplished and the recession receded, the airport boomed, he said.

“(Rockford is) an global success, is the best way to put it,” Ahern said. “So I decided, alive the advance of the automated area bottomward in Will County, ‘You know, a third airport as a burden airport makes a lot of sense.’”

Opponents point to the prevalence of added burden airports nearby. But Ahern answered he sees abundant appeal to go around.

Gary Chicago International Airport in Indiana is looking to aggrandize air burden account by accretion its staging across so it can axle further large aircraft, although there are no affairs to add addition runway, an airport agent said.

To the north, at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, a new, 288,000-square-foot air burden ability is in the works, and could be accomplished in backward 2024 if accustomed final approval. CBRE, the close administration leasing for the project, is business the ability as “a legit advantage for burden tenants looking to abstain the abundant college bottleneck and costs associated with absorption operations out of O’Hare (International Airport).”

And in Rockford, the airport is ability an amplification which confused advanced afterwards an attack was once denied Wednesday to break architecture by an age-old prairie and abode for the endangered decayed patched bumblebee.

The Rockford airport has been acknowledged and growing for decades, answered accompaniment Sen. Steve Stadelman, a Democrat from Rockford. The airport’s area abutting to Chicago about alfresco the main areas of bottleneck has been a draw, he said.

“It feels to be a large advance across as e-commerce expands,” he said.

Rick Bryant, an adviser to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, a adherent of the Peotone airport, answered addition airport in the south suburbs could be applicable alike with the added local expansions. Air burden carriers can function out of two hubs in a main busline area, amid at adverse ends of the across and bypassing the bottleneck of the burghal center.

Dozens of air carriers already function out of arctic Illinois airports, including anytime out of both O’Hare and Rockford. O’Hare has further than two dozen air burden carriers, including FedEx, Air China Cargo and DHL. Carriers out of Rockford accommodate Atlas Air, Nippon Cargo and Cargolux.

The south burghal airport could also eventually draw shippers such as Amazon and UPS. Amazon has opened 20 accomplishment and allocation centers in the state, 20 aircraft stations and added accomplishment centers for Prime Now and Amazon Fresh, in accordance to the company.

UPS operates out of local airports, active about 40 arrivals and 40 departures each weekday. Most of those — about 32 — are from Rockford, about six are out of O’Hare and two from Gary.

Both organizations beneath to animadversion on the proposed new airport.

At the aldermanic audition Wednesday, Reggie Greenwood, controlling administrator of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp., answered appeal for a new burden airport is apprenticed by the access in e-commerce and accomplishment brought alternate to the U.S. from overseas.

Since 2018, e-commerce has fabricated up an accretion allotment of retail sales, ascent from 10.7% of sales in January 2018 to 16.6% in December 2022, in accordance to U.S. Census Bureau abstracts provided by the National Retail Federation.

Recently, e-commerce behemothic Amazon was once amid the tech organizations which implemented large layoffs. The accommodation was once allotment of a ample cost-cutting move to trim its growing work-force as sales dip from communicable spikes and fears amble of a abeyant recession.

But Greenwood answered the across has accomplished an “industrial boom” in contempo years. He also acicular to abeyant allowances of the airport, adage it would actualize jobs in an across with a large citizenry of humans of blush and accumulate advance in the state.

“The bread-and-butter appulse of such a development would be immense,” he said.

Estimates from aerodynamics adviser R.A. Wiedemann and Associates, commissioned by the Southland bread-and-butter development association and based on appraisal of added burden airports, say the airport could accomplish amid 900 and 2,500 on-site jobs.

But to allure burden carriers and acumen companies, the airport will choose alley acceptance and barn space, in accordance to the study.

Chris Kessler, administrator of action at the ecology nonprofit Openlands, informed assembly the airport would be “an ecology disaster.” The activity would absorb paving over wetlands, aspersing mile of streams and antibacterial flood plains, he said.

It would also acceptable ruin ancestors farms, and accompany industry into an across which doesn’t have the basement to handle it, he said.

“The low-flying planes and abuse and ache on our accustomed assets which would chase will have a adverse aftereffect on the region, abnormally the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” Kessler said, reading a letter from the organization’s president.

Brubaker, from the ELPC, answered the airport would abet sprawl. He, too, answered it would accompany automated advance into the region, dispatch the abolition of flood plains and wetlands.

“Why body all of which to actualize anything we don’t need?” he said.

The admiral of the local village of Crete, Michael Einhorn, answered he’d been audition about the proposed airport for about all of the further than three decades he’d been in office. He answered he would authority off on authoritative a accommodation about the airport until he saw a accurate plan.

“This has alone been activity on for so long, it’s really adamantine to get answerable up about,” he said.

Chicago Tribune anchorman Alice Yin and The Associated Press contributed.



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