I recognize the various groups of stakeholders who have joined the discussion of the South Suburban Airport (SSA) through the years have not always agreed on the best way to build and operate the airport. Without a consensus, there was no clear path forward for too long.
As Will County executive, I never compromised our goal to ensure Will County retains control just to move this project forward. At the same time, I now recognize that the current model authorizing the Illinois Department of Transportation to enter into a public private partnership (P3) to build this airport is a viable one.
Senate Bill 20, the P3 legislation approved by the General Assembly in May, allows IDOT to develop the SSA in collaboration with local stakeholders, including Will County and the municipalities of Beecher, Peotone, Crete, Monee and University Park. In addition, there will be an opportunity for regional leaders outside of Will County to be involved.
With this legislation, once and for all, we will learn from the Federal Aviation Administration if, indeed, the South Suburban Airport is a viable site or not. The FAA has received all chapters of the master plan and a definite decision will be forthcoming.
What has changed? This legislation has reduced the uncertainty surrounding the future of the SSA and will provide a fresh start for open communication between local leaders and the state to move this project forward. Anyone who questions whether local participation is likely to occur need not look any further than another major IDOT project currently under way in Will County: the study of the Illiana Expressway.
Throughout the Illiana Corridor Study, IDOT has maintained an open, transparent public process that relies heavily on local involvement to create a viable project to minimize the impact on people and communities and provide a strong foundation for future growth and development in the region. Public involvement with the Illiana has involved direct communication, not only with elected officials, but with county residents and, most importantly, affected landowners.
Not everyone supports the Illiana, but the feedback I’ve received from residents is IDOT has made every attempt to develop a plan that is sensitive to local needs.
Judging by the turnout and tenor of the event held June 26 at Governors State University, regional leaders are eager to forge a new beginning for the SSA. IDOT should be applauded for bringing regional leaders together to open up lines of communication and provide everyone with a comprehensive update on the project.
As in the past, I will continue to protect the interests of Will County and its residents, especially in the eastern part of the county, in the development of the SSA. As this project moves forward, we will continue to be an active part of the process. This decision by the state of Illinois will offer great opportunity for Will County and its residents. The P3 legislation will reduce the financial risk for our taxpayers while protecting the public involvement for our local leaders.
The addition of the South Suburban Airport will be an important asset to expand Will County’s role in the global transportation market. Because of the success of P3 legislation, Governor Quinn and IDOT have found a practical way to move this important project forward. I support these efforts and will continue to work to protect the best interests of Will County and our residents.