KANKAKEE — The importance of a third Chicagoland airport has been stated so many times it would be impossible to count all of them.
But U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, in Kankakee on Friday morning, said significant progress has been made on the proposed South Suburban Airport at Peotone.
She noted the majority of the approximate 6,000 acres needed for the project are now owned by the Illinois Department of Transportation and there is more political agreement than ever in terms of moving this development forward.
“We will keep up the full court press. People want to see it happen,” she said.
Kelly and her aide, longtime airport advocate Rick Bryant, noted the $20-billion investment made with the past several years at O’Hare International Airport did nothing to ease air congestion.
The air congestion is what limits the traffic flow and expansion options at O’Hare.
“This is still needed. We have a lot of support,” Kelly said. “I feel this is the time. Things are aligning.”
The 63-year-old Democratic congresswomen, who represents the 2nd U.S. House District which stretches from urban south Chicago to rural Kankakee County, said more than 50 local leaders sent a letter to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker supporting the project.
Bryant said he will be meeting with new Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to discuss the south suburban airport. Previous Chicago mayors have staunchly opposed the development, largely due to concerns of its potential impact on O’Hare and Midway International Airport.
Bryant said he believes there is no question another airport is needed — but Chicago City Hall has consistently presented an obstacle.
“They are the grease that runs the machine,” he said. “But we’ve made progress. Support is lining up.”
Bryant noted Kankakee would be in a great position for the development as it would be only some 15 minutes south of the targeted site.
The third Chicagoland airport issue been in the discussion since 1968 when it was proposed as a need to alleviate future transportation concerns.
In the letter to Pritzker, suburban leaders asked the state to put in $150 million of transportation improvements associated with the airport, such as a new interchange on Interstate 57 and local road construction. The letter noted utilities upgrades would also be necessary.
The letter further stated that even if the airport wasn’t developed, the infrastructure work is needed.
In addition, a DePaul University transportation expert, Joseph Schwieterman said there appears to be movement regarding the airport. He noted the state budget revived the proposal and earmarked $162 million for road improvements in that area.
Here are a few other thoughts from Kelly on other issues.
Gun Control: Kelly wants to be clear she is not against people owning guns. She said she grew up in a house where guns were present.
However, what she has great concerns with is the easy access people have and the speed in which some firearms can be acquired.
She also is extremely concerned with the vast supply of illegal guns which are being used in cities such as Chicago. The congresswoman is also concerned with the military-style guns available.
Kelly was encouraged to see retailers such as Walmart limiting ammunition sales and asking customers to refrain from carrying firearms into the store.
The shootings, she noted, are taking place across the U.S.
“We always hear people say ‘I can’t believe it happened here.’ I wish people would stop saying that. It can happen anywhere. We need common sense gun reform.”
China trade: She noted that in Illinois, the chief provider of soybeans, the trade war is here is of chief concern.
She believes this conflict can be resolved if the comments and Twitter messages are eased.
“If the president (Trump) stays out of it, I think a deal can get done. Officials will sit down and talk. Despite him, I think this can get done. What China buys from us is tremendous. We have to get something done.”