The Illinois Department of Transportation is making progress every day on its proposed South Suburban Airport, with a goal to break ground on the site near Peotone in 2016, IDOT Secretary Ann Schnieder said Friday, speaking at a breakfast meeting of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. at Freedom Hall in Park Forest.

That date is doable, “but all the stars have to be lined up,” IDOT director of aeronautics Susan Shea said in a telephone interview later Friday.

“Ann Schnieder is dead serious about getting it done as quickly as possible,” she said.

There are three major steps IDOT officials are working on now to make that happen: acquiring land, developing an airport master plan, and securing a Record of Decision from the Federal Aviation Administration, IDOT officials said.

IDOT has bought more than half the land needed — 3,000 of the 5,000 acres — and continues to make offers and buy parcels every day, Shea said. It has property for the terminal and the runway and enough land for groundbreaking.

“We do not need to have all the land before we break ground,” she said.

Additionally, IDOT continues to work on environmental studies and an airport master plan, to get the FAA’s approval.

The next step is to develop a comprehensive business plan, and IDOT soon will solicit proposals from firms to produce that document, which will define the market in and around the airport, Shea said.

The airport project is expected to be funded by a public-private partnership, but private firms have yet to bid on this.

Meanwhile, four private investors have been selected as finalists for the Illiana tollway — a 47-mile connection from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Ind.

IDOT also is moving quickly on the tollway project, and while these two major infrastructure projects are “mutually beneficial,” one does not depend on the other, Shea said.

The state expects its record of decision on the tollway next month and then will begin acquiring land. IDOT hopes to begin construction on the road next year.

Two tollway-related lawsuits have been filed against IDOT by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, on behalf of the Sierra Club and Openlands. One challenges the environmental impact study and another, filed recently, claims the approval process has not followed state law.

“The lawsuits have not affected our planning,” IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said.

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