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Will County Board looks for airport bill answers

Updated: September 1, 2013 6:34AM



JOLIET — A bill that gave control of the proposed South Suburban Airport near Peotone to the Illinois Department of Transportation passed so quickly in the Legislature in May, some Will County Board members were taken by surprise.

On Thursday, two airport experts hired by the county will report on the bill, which was signed into law last week by Gov. Pat Quinn. Their report will be presented to the board’s executive committee at a meeting that begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St.

“My goal is for more knowledge and to get a better understanding of the bill,” county board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr. (D-Joliet) said. “Now we have to unravel what happened so quickly.”

Before the bill was passed, Will County officials had been vying for control of the airport project, estimated to cost about $400 million, with the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission.

ALNAC was led by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), whose district at the time did not include the airport site, which is completely in Will County. Jackson represented South Cook County communities that stand to benefit from the economic spinoff from the airport.

The recently approved Senate Bill 20 not only gave IDOT control of the project, it allows the agency to enter into a public-private partnership to get the airport built and to operate it.

State Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said at a June luncheon in Joliet that airport construction could begin in 2015 if the Federal Aviation Administration approves the project next year. The state has 73 sites left to purchase out of 159 needed for the initial 5,800-acre airport footprint, she said then.

If FAA approval comes, IDOT could use quick-take powers to acquire land it has not yet obtained for the airport. In the meantime, IDOT will continue to negotiate with willing sellers and seek to forcibly acquire land from those unwilling to sell, Schneider said.



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