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SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT PROJECT

The highly-contested, long-awaited brainchild of Mayor Richard J. Daley has been in the works for over 40 years. The proposed site for Chicagoland’s third airport, Peotone, has been waiting patiently for this certain boost for its local economy, but has had to face one political hurdle after another. However, hope for this regional hub was renewed in March of 2011 when Governor Pat Quinn announced his desire to start construction on the SSA “as fast as humanly possible.” In late 2012, the Airport submitted its plans to the Federal Aviation Administration, marking its intentions to finally come to fruition.

Though SSA officials had assured landowners they would not utilize eminent domain to acquire property until the project received approval, as of October 2012, at least one landowner had been sued for appropriation of its land.

 

EDITORIAL: CHICAGO NEEDS A MODERN AIRPORT (NOT IN CHICAGO)

Full story originally published here.

A world-class city needs a world-class cargo airport. But when it comes to air cargo, Chicago remains the Second City.
O’Hare International Airport’s cargo volume declined 4.6 percent between 2011 and 2012, ranking it 20th worldwide. By comparison, New York’s two main regional airports, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International, combined for a ranking of 10th in the world. Airports in Memphis, Louisville, Miami and Los Angeles each handled more air cargo tonnage than O’Hare did last year. What’s wrong with this picture?

According to the International Air Transport Association, almost 60 percent of the world’s air cargo volume moves in dedicated freighter aircrafts, with the balance moving as “belly cargo” on passenger planes. At O’Hare, this ratio is virtually the opposite. “Limited amount of (air) freighter service . . . available at O’Hare” was an issue raised in public comments submitted in 2010 in response to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GO TO 2040 Draft Freight section. Consequently, if its focus clearly is not on the freighter market, how competitive can it be in serving the cargo market?
In the air cargo business, time and fuel equals money. At the world’s most efficient modern airports such as Incheon near Seoul, South Korea, cargo terminals are no more than five minutes from the end of the runway. By contrast, at O’Hare, it can easily take 20 to 30 minutes after landing for cargo planes to finally reach their terminals, shut down engines and stop burning expensive aviation fuel.

GOOD FOR PASSENGERS, NOT CARGO
The modernization of O’Hare International Airport may be great for passengers, but it still leaves many dissatisfied air cargo customers wanting more. The Chicago region needs a modern, state-of-the-art cargo airport to meet the economic demands of the 21st century. And that airport is the South Suburban Airport in Will County.

SSA’s rural location is conducive to nighttime air operations, mitigating concerns about noise pollution. Will County already isa global multimodal logistics hub, containing one-fifth of the region’s total suburban industrial space. Extending Metra’s Electric District to the airport would provide a convenient commuting option for south suburban residents as well as a direct rail connection to the Loop.

Funding for this project will be just as innovative and creative as its design. I believe that international infrastructure funds from Canada and Spain are prepared to use private money to finance construction and operation of the new South Suburban Airport. These same investors have expressed interest in funding the Metra extension to Peotone.
Chicago’s Southland is America’s ground zero for transportation innovation, of which the South Suburban Airport is an integral part.

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

LAND AQUISITION MAP – SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT

Status Map

IDOT’S GAFFE MAY COST MILLIONS IN LAND ACQUISITION

Full story here.

Illinois may end up paying $35 million more for property for the South Suburban Airport because it allowed a businessman to construct a private airfield on the land.

Sitting in the 4,200-acre footprint of the state’s proposed major airport is a general aviation field constructed by Jim Bult in 2007.

Bult, 52, who launched what would become one of the largest interstate solid-waste haulers in the country at age 18 with one truck, apparently just got tired of the state’s stalling on the airport project and went to work.

The result is Bult Field, on the site of the former Sanger Field, 28261 Kedzie Ave., in Will Township. Sanger began as an old country airport in 1948 and included a grass landing strip for crop dusters and a barn that served as a hangar.

Bult, who grew up nearby and became an amateur aviator, wanted a place to land his helicopter and store his private plane.

So he constructed a 5,000-foot-long concrete runway that could accommodate corporate jets, about half the size of the runway the state plans to build. There’s also an airplane hangar large enough to house more than 100 small planes.

And there’s a stone-and-timber lodge, where visiting pilots can stay overnight, complete with conference rooms for out-of-town businessmen. Some people told me they believe Bult now lives in a residence attached to the lodge.

Less than 10 years ago, the Bult Field property was on the market for $1.5 million. Although the state’s plans at the time clearly required the site for the South Suburban Airport, it never made a bid for the land.

A SouthtownStar story a few years ago reported that Bult estimated his investment at $37 million and would likely be seeking at least that if the state came knocking.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said “Bult Field is located within the inaugural footprint (of the airport) and it is IDOT’s intention to incorporate Bult Field into the Inaugural Airport Program. Due to the sensitive and personal nature of land acquisition, IDOT does not publicly discuss the details of any appraisals or negotiations …”

I telephoned Bult, seeking an interview for this column, but as soon as I identified myself he hung up the phone. I called back and left a voice mail message, tactfully saying that we had been disconnected.

Bult than texted the following message back — “I do not do interviews. Do not call me for one.”

Several sources I spoke to about Bult described him as a gruff, self-made man who enjoys a reputation as a guy willing to thumb his nose at government bureaucrats.

Back when Bult was willing to talk to the newspapers, former SouthtownStar reporter Guy Tridgell quoted him as saying he was not opposed to the state’s plans to build an airport near Bult Field.

“If the state bought Bult Field, bulldozed it and built a viable runway and hangar for me, I wouldn’t care,” Bult told Tridgell. “My beginning goal and my end goal was to have a quality airport here.”

Tridgell, who went on to become the public information officer for IDOT and now is a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), said he was under the impression that Bult installed the airfield because he got tired of waiting for the state to build its airport.

Another source who knows Bult related a similar story and said, “I always got the feeling that he thought the government officials were so incompetent they would never get around to actually building an airport, so he was going to do it himself.”

In 1980, Bult founded Mr. Bults Inc., in Burnham, with one truck and himself as the driver, according to the company’s website.

Today, it has a fleet of 1,300 trucks, 2,500 trailers; 100 pieces of loading equipment (including wheel loaders, excavators, skid steers and backhoes) and 90 Columbia trailer tippers along with numerous service trucks, sweepers, cranes and other support equipment.

Bult sold a controlling interest in his company to an investment group several years ago for millions of dollars but continues to run Mr. Bults.

A blog site I stumbled across describes how Bult constructed and drove a “Trophy Truck” a few years ago in a Baja 1000 off-road race.

In short, this is a rich, very independent, smart fellow who isn’t likely to give the state his airport at a lowball price and has the financial ability to challenge a takeover of his property in court.

As I understand it, the state’s plan is to connect Bult Field to the South Suburban Airport cargo runway with some sort of taxiway, thereby keeping the small airport running as IDOT launches a cargo airport that may eventually attract commercial flights.

Bult’s runway, I am told, is too short for commercial flights, and the pavement is not thick enough to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards for such planes.

But the real question is why Will County, where the airfield is located, and the state of Illinois allowed Bult to buy the land and construct his field.

All of this was taking place in 2006-2007, as both Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Will County Executive Larry Walsh were claiming they supported construction of a third Chicago-area airport near Peotone. And the state had begun land acquisition for the South Suburban Airport.

The state and Will County could have stopped Bult at any time but chose not to do so.

So maybe Bult is right in his assumptions about government incompetence and stupidity.

I sure can’t imagine the state acquiring his property today for anything close to $1.5 million.

“Bult always figured one way or another he would come out all right,” a source said. “He would build his own airfield, fly his plane and helicopter, and if the state ever decided to go ahead with its airport, he would get paid off for his investment.”

As Butch Cassidy once told Sundance, “I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

PROPOSED AIRPORT LAYOUT – SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT

23-FUTR-PMAP

SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT WOULD BE ONE OF A KIND

Full story here.

If constructed, the proposed South Suburban Airport near Peotone, IL, would be the only US airport constructed from scratch as a public-private partnership, per Illinois Department of Transportation secretary Ann Schneider.

Two weeks ago, the state hired a company to advise it on public-private partnerships as it heads into this uncharted territory, Schneider said.

“I think that is going to drive a lot of the decisions that need to be made as we go forward,” she said.

Schneider said such partnerships have built international airports and additions to U.S. airports, but no airport in the country has been initially built here through the arrangement.

IDOT’s has its hands full in the area. In addition to the proposed South Suburban Aiport, the controversial Illiana Expressway, connecteing Lowell, IN, to Wilmington, IL, is still in the planning stages and subject to much controversy.

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport or Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

WILL COUNTY WANTS MORE COOPERATION FROM IDOT IN PROPOSED SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT

Story from The Bugle. Can be seen here.

Will County Board Speaker Herb Brooks said he has moved on from his initial concerns about how the South Suburban Airport legislation was swept in during the final hours of the Legislature’s spring session.

But it was clear at an Aug. 1 meeting of County Board committee leadership that others did not agree with the Joliet Democrat.

“I want to begin a relationship with (the Illinois Department of Transportation) and the governor’s office to move this plan forward,” Brooks said at the Aug. 1 Executive Committee meeting. Some were upset with Brooks when he sent a letter to the media following the Legislature’s 11th hour vote on Senate Bill 20, an omnibus bill that established a public-private partnership opportunity for the airport with the state in control.

Will County Board Member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, a member of Shut This Airport Nightmare Down, still is angry with board leadership that county board rank and file knew nothing about the deal, especially since the county board for years has supported local control of the airport.

Even though an airport would not be built unless the state finds a suitable private partner, Ogalla said land values for property owners in that area will continue to drop because no one will want to buy land until they know for sure what’s going on.

Land use is one of the crucial issues the County Board needs to iron out with IDOT, the board’s airport consultants told them at the meeting. SB 20 bars any local taxes from being levied within the airport boundaries. Since that means potential loss of revenue to the county and adjoining municipalities, they said the county needs to iron out the exact boundaries.

Other issues the county needs to work out with IDOT include: funding for infrastructure damaged by airport construction; effect on traffic and roads; who will provide on-site police and fire protection; water and sewer issues; impact fees; and noise.

They said the federal and state government often has funds available for planning for such projects.
Board Republican Caucus Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township, said he does not trust the state to treat the county fairly. He said it’s up to them to make sure Will County residents are protected.
He also wondered whether the airport, if there is one, would remain in Will County, or if another municipality would attempt to annex it, as Chicago did years ago with O’Hare International Airport.

Consultants said they believed an airport near Peotone would remain within Will County. After the meeting, Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh, said they are not concerned at this point about rumors that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may find a way to block the airport.

Palmer said the same is true for William Daley who recently announced a run for governor next year. Many believe it was Daley as Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton who got the Federal Aviation Administration to take the South Suburban Airport off its list.

Palmer noted that if Emanuel and Daley are opposed to the airport, the legislation in SB 20 managed to pass regardless.
He also said an earlier meeting with IDOT officials on transportation issues that had been postponed was rescheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Will County Office Building.

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT WILL NEVER FLY

Story originally published here.

I almost fell out of my chair on Wednesday at the Global Logistics Summit in Bolingbrook when Greg Lindsay, the final keynote speaker, bashed the proposed South Suburban Airport as being a white elephant in waiting.

Lindsay, author of “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” said the airport goes against the grain of what he’s seeing in the world with large mega airports getting bigger and bigger and attracting more and more business. He cited Dubai International Airport and Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as examples.

That pattern is the opposite of the so-called “reliever” airports built in some U.S. cities that seem to be languishing, he said.

The state of Illinois has spent $40 million so far acquiring land for the SSA, which would be built in eastern Will County near Peotone. The project has been kicked around for decades but recently picked up steam when the Legislature said the airport could be built with a public-private partnership and it gave control of the project to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

While many eastern Will County residents oppose the airport, a lot of state and local officials are in favor of it, including members of the Will County Center for Economic Development, which sponsored the Global Logistics Summit. That’s why I was shocked that Lindsay was a featured speaker.

While Lindsay stressed that he is not an aviation expert, he has an impressive resume. He’s a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management and a research affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute. He also is known for beating IBM super computer Watson in “Jeopardy” matches.

Lindsay, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., has one more qualification: He lived in Manteno until he was 12 and was seven miles from the airport site before his family moved to Bourbonnais.

“I can’t believe it’s still going,” he said of the project when he was in Bolingbrook on Wednesday. “I’m shocked.”

While proponents think the SSA will be a magnet for jobs and growth, Lindsay is skeptical that any major airlines would locate there.

“No one has a real plan on who would serve that airport,” he said. “The big three carriers have not expressed any interest.”

An airport alone will not guarantee economic spin-off, he said.

“If you just build an airport there, it can just sit there empty, which is what MidAmerica (in southern Illinois near St. Louis) is doing. … I will happily go on the record saying I do not believe the South Suburban Airport would be an economic engine for the region. No one has shown me a path for that,” he said.

He also questioned the estimate of 14,000 permanent jobs espoused by Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider at the same global logistics conference.

“I would love to see where that number comes from,” he said. “I could see the construction jobs, that one is obvious. But this permanent job base around the airport? I absolutely have no idea how they come up with this.”

Instead, Lindsay said Chicago should continue with its O’Hare International Airport modernization project.

“O’Hare, despite its congestion problems, has that critical mass of infrastructure around it,” he said.

I had one final question for Lindsay before I left the conference. I asked him if John Greuling, president and CEO of the CED, knew that his keynote speech would be anti-SSA.

“He was open to that,” Lindsay said of Greuling.

Airport proponents and opponents alike have said the SSA’s new public-private financing model should help keep white elephants out of Will County because a private developer would have to research the project’s viability or risk losing millions of dollars.

Lindsay agreed private scrutiny of the project should help prevent an airport flop.

“Now they’re going to have a cold, hard bath of market reality,” he said.

Greuling was not flustered by Lindsay’s comments, and I give him credit for opening up Will County to a little outside review of the project. But Lindsay didn’t change Greuling’s mind.

“We’re not shooting for an aerotropolis,” Greuling said. “We’re shooting for an airport that will serve very local needs. … I think the continued population growth and the underserved aviation demand down here and the FAA forecasts, whether (Lindsay) likes them or not, show we have over 2.5 million people who will be flying more and more within a 35- to 40-minute drive of our footprint.”

But Greuling said he also agrees that the key to the project going forward will be finding airlines to use it.

“We’re not doing a MidAmerica here,” he said. “If we don’t find an airline that commits for a substantial amount of use, the airport will not get done.”

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

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