Officials updated on airport, tollway projects
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com September 4, 2014 5:50PM
A state-run airport that includes what had been privately owned Bult Field in Monee could be operational in four to eight years, officials said this week. | File photo
Updated: September 8, 2014 10:49PM
State officials are forging ahead with plans for the Illiana Tollway and the South Suburban Airport, and both projects in rural Will County could be operational within four to eight years, according to the latest reports.
Representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation gave updates Thursday morning to members of the Will County Board’s ad hoc airport committee. Final environmental impact studies are being completed on both projects, while state officials seek private partners to finance, build and operate the airport and tollway.
IDOT will invite airlines and financial institutions to a Sept. 23 forum at the Tinley Park Convention Center to discuss the financial feasibility of the South Suburban Airport project, said Susan Shea, IDOT’s director of aeronautics, adding that eight parties have already expressed interest.
The Federal Aviation Administration has started an airspace study, to determine flight patterns in “some of the busiest airspace” in the country, and once that’s done, it will finalize the environmental impact study — a process which could take up to three years, she said.
In the meantime, IDOT is completing its airport master plan, to expand on what it owns at Bult Field and continues to acquire land around it.
Bult Field, in the 26200 block of Kedzie Avenue, has 65 to 75 aircraft based there on any given day, with a capacity for 100, Shea said. While the state plans to maintain it as-is and bring it up to federal standards, future plans are to make it a cargo field to serve anticipated growth in air freight.
IDOT sees a similar opportunity to create a freight corridor on the proposed Illiana Tollway, which will connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana.
That final environmental impact study will be released in September or October and be available for public review for 30 days, after which the preferred route will be tweaked, said Steve Schilke IDOT’s project manager for the Illiana.
The environmental study is addressing issues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding impacts to the habitats of the long-eared bat and mussels but does not expect that to delay the project, Schilke said.
Will County Farm Bureau manager Mark Schneidewind told the committee that farmers continue to have concerns about the tollway regarding drainage and landlocked parcels but said state officials “are working well with us.”
Drainage is a “very, very important issue,” he said.
The state needs to do additional soil borings, which it hopes to time before and after harvest season.
The borings may hit drain tiles, and if farm drainage is disrupted it can make the land “unusable,” Schneidewind said, adding that farmers also want more tollway overpasses so they can have access to their fields.
Schilke said IDOT expects federal approval for the tollway by Jan. 1 wants to be ready to issue requests for proposals from private vendors and appraise land as soon as that decision is made.
No final decision has yet been made on financing the Illiana Tollway. Legislation to accelerate the project by putting more state money into it failed in Springfield in the last session, mostly out of fear that the tollway could jeopardize other road projects, but the funding issue may come up again in the fall veto session, Julie Curry, Will County’s legislative liaison, said.
The latest report indicates that the roughly $900 million tollway could be financed with $250 million in low-interest loans, using tolls to pay off that debt, and with $400 million from the state and $250 million from private partners.