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SSMMA Statement on Regional Airport Capacity

SSMMA Statement on Regional Aviation Capacity

The Chicago Metropolitan Region must immediately address the critical need to provide additional, substantial aviation capacity. Failure to do so will put in jeopardy the region’s status as a transportation hub as well as affecting the economy of this region and the entire State. The Association supports the immediate development of the South Suburban Airport at the Will County site near University Park and Peotone as the best solution to providing both immediate and long-term capacity for the region.

The airports of the Chicago metro area (13 counties) serve national, international, state and regional needs. The existing (O’Hare, Midway) and proposed (South Suburban) airports would, together, serve the entire region, but with concentration in different aviation markets and local service areas. Over the past decade, Will County had the highest population growth, in both volume (146,360) and rate (41%), in the state. NIPC’s 2030 forecasts have Will becoming the region’s second most populous county.

Existing and forecast jobs however, are concentrated in the Chicago Central Area and the O’Hare environs, including DuPage and Lake Counties. Job growth lags in the south part of the region, creating long travel to work times, lack of job opportunities, and high property taxes. These problems will be compounded without a major economic engine in the south.

While airports are major economic engines, they must have reasonable land and facilities nearby to provide development opportunities. Decades of urban and economic development around O’Hare limit expansion beyond that currently proposed. Available land around the proposed South Suburban Airport is abundant. Airport-related growth would help solve the existing and forecasted job imbalance in the south part of the region.

Regional Aviation Forecasts – preliminary city and state regional enplanement forecasts show a growth from 40 million in 2001, to 112 million in 2030. Preliminary allocations give an expanded O’Hare 75 million enplanements, a modernized Midway 12 million, and a developed South Suburban 25 million by 2030.

Regional cargo demands are growing rapidly, with larger and greater shares carried by all-cargo airlines. The regional all-cargo freight and express tonnage is expected to increase twenty-fold by 2030, with an eight-fold growth in operations. In preliminary city forecasts, O’Hare is able to increase its capacity by only 70 percent. Rockford can handle increased cargo to/from northwest points.

The South Suburban Airport can handle the balance of cargo growth with ready access to the nation’s highways and rail networks and abundant land. And, it can do it in an environmentally sensitive way.There has been a widespread revolt against high business fares. The aviation industry is in the process of adjusting to these demands and the competition of low-fare airlines. Lower fares will increase demand.

There is an agreement that the region needs major expansion of airport capacity. O’Hare’s reconfiguration and expansion and the development of the South Suburban must proceed as quickly as possible.

South Suburban Airport Needs

Planning for the South Suburban Airport has been ongoing since 1986. The Association and its members have been actively involved in issues surrounding the airport since that time.  Currently, as of February 2013,  the Association supports the following:

The Association strongly supported efforts to pass a Capital Bill in 2009. We are concerned that several of the revenue sources to fund the projects have not as yet been fully implemented and urge a review of funding sources identified to determine if they are realistic or if new revenue sources are needed. The Association supports efforts to pass a new, comprehensive Capital Bill.

We call upon the Governor and Legislature to authorize the sale of bonds so that projects identified in the Capital Bill for municipalities, as well as for land purchase for the South Suburban Airport and transit projects can move forward.

Finally, the Association requests additional capital funding in the amount of $300 million as the match to federal funds for the Metra New Start project for Southeast Commuter Rail.

In addition, the following actions are necessary:

1. We thank the Legislature and the Governor for providing $110 million for land acquisition in the Capital Bill. We encourage the appropriation of the remaining funds so that land acquisition can continue without interruption. The Governor and the Illinois Department of Transportation must complete land acquisition necessary for the Phase I inaugural airport, including condemnation proceedings where necessary.

2. The Governor and the legislative leaders from the area must actively work to bring together leadership from Will County, southern Cook County including ALNAC communities, the Iron ring communities (Beecher, Crete, Monee and Peotone) to finalize an appropriate governance structure and utilize an appropriate public-private partnership to assure fast-track construction of the airport.

Additionally, the Association supports the creation of the Eastern Will County Development District in the six townships that surround the airport.

The Association pledges to continue working together with all parties involved at the federal, state, county and municipal levels to resolve our outstanding issues in a cooperative spirit, focusing on achieving our mutual goal of having the airport open within the next five years. We have come too far to fail now, when success is within our reach.

For further information please contact Ed Paesel at edward.paesel@ssmma.org or (708) 922-4670.

For more information, please visit the official South Suburban Airport website.

For a summary of the South Suburban Airport Jobs Bill and a June 2013 project update, download South Suburban Airport Meeting for Community Leaders 6-26-13

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