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Top IDOT Official Says Third Airport Will Be Built

PEOTONE, Ill. (STMW) -- Susan Shea has a message for all the opponents and pessimists who don't think the South Suburban Airport ever will be built near Peotone.

"To the naysayers, this is it. The FAA would not tell us this is the preferred place. This is where it's going to be," Shea said. "... It's going to be such an economic engine for the community out there, for the state. It is going to happen. It's just a matter of when. It's not a matter anymore of if."

The airport project is under Shea's watch as director of the aeronautics division for the Illinois Department of Transportation. The project was among several infrastructure topics discussed Friday during a meeting of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. at Glenwoodie Golf Course in Glenwood.

Construction of the airport would take three years, but she declined to say when it might begin.

"The FAA is not very happy with me when I give a hard, fast date," Shea said.

She said she was encouraged when the Federal Aviation Administration on June 27 accepted Illinois' alternatives report, which means the FAA "has finally painted on the ground where the first runway, the first terminal, the cargo area will be, where the passengers will be. Exactly where it's at on the inaugural footprint. It gave me great pride.

"What this does, it tells you where you're going to be on Day One. And it gives you time to start working on the highways, on where the access roads really ought to be," Shea said.

As of now, the first runway would be south of Eagle Creek Road and east of Will Center Road. Crawford Avenue, if it were allowed to, would bisect the runway.

The state has acquired 2,317 acres for the airport and is seeking 623 more in nine land condemnation cases in Will County. Condemnation is not a preferred method of hers, Shea said, noting that as a child, her family lost a house near Peoria to the state for what became part of Interstate 74.

She painted a bright picture regarding economic development if the airport were built.

"Airports facilitate commerce. They bring real dollars to your community. They open a nationwide door to your area," she said.

The airport would create about 11,000 construction jobs, she said, and is projected to have about 15,000 jobs in its 15th year.

Those at Friday's meeting also heard from Kesti Susinskas, project manager for a consultant working on the Illiana Expressway project, and from IDOT's John Baczek regarding the interchange being built between interstates 57 and 294.

Susinskas talked about options for the proposed Illiana Expressway, which would connect I-55 with I-65 in Indiana. Of the three possible routes, one is north of the proposed airport site and two are just south of it.

Shea said IDOT is "comfortable" with any of the three routes, and she expressed no preference.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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