What’s Peotone’s Impact On Midway Airport?

What’s Peotone’s Impact On Midway Airport?
Southwest News-Herald Newspaper, Friday, October 25, 2013

We hear a lot about the third airport that everyone wants to build in the “South Suburbs.”

But we don’t hear enough about Midway Airport. I have been a Southwest Sider almost all of my life, migrating with my parents in the late 1960s from the Southeast Side of Chicago.

I can’t imagine what the Southwest Side would be without Midway Airport.

Well, actually, I can imagine it. It happened in the 1960s when the airport was practically a ghost town. At one point, Mayor Richard M. Daley proposed turning it into an industrial park.

The airlines had long ago fled, but only returned because of the hard work and dedication of Bill Lipinski, the 23rd Ward alderman and later the region’s congressman.

It wasn’t until 2002 that direct international service, which had disappeared 40 years earlier, had been restored after the city completed a massive renovation, relocation of the terminal and expansion of the airport itself.

Today, Midway is beautiful. It’s efficient. And I just can’t imagine why so many people want to ignore it and build an airport at Peotone, which is only 31 miles south in the boonies between Manteno and Monee.

Oh, you haven’t been to Manteno or Monee lately?

Originally, the plan called for Peotone to be built by government, taxpayer funds. At least they have changed that to make it a “public-private” partnership, which means private businesses will have to put their money where their mouths are.

Businesses love to risk the taxpayer dollar on White Elephants. Personally, if they want to build a third airport, it should be funded entirely by private funds, not the state taxpayer money.

They keep saying it will generate jobs. More than 11,000 jobs. They also keep saying it will benefit the Southwest Side and suburbs. No. It won’t. It will benefit the “South Suburbs,” where most of the jobs will go. And the South Suburbs are not the same as the Southwest Side and Suburbs, which will have no direct benefit from the plan whatsoever.

The only impact will be on the existing jobs at Midway, which the Illinois Department of Transportation estimates at 29,441 jobs. There’s very little real data about Midway on the Chicago Aviation Department’s Web site, which doesn’t distinguish between O’Hare and Midway. Together they account for 540,000 jobs and $45 billion in economic activity.

When you go to the Aviation Department’s Web site, the link to the “Midway Transaction” doesn’t even work. Freudian slip, people? Maybe they know something we haven’t been told about Midway’s future.

Before they commit any more funds to Peotone Airport, maybe someone in Chicagoland should start assessing what impact the third airport will have on Midway Airport.

So much has been invested there. So many jobs are at stake. Any damage to Midway’s economic presence would do irreparable harm to the people who live around Midway Airport and the businesses that service it.

Some of our elected officials care, but not enough is being done to protect Midway. They should start asking questions. If Peotone is built, what will the real impact be on Midway?

Can we afford to go back to the 1960s when it was just an abandoned prop plane prairie where the only thing on its runways were Estes rockets fired by little kids (including myself back then)?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. You may reach him at http://www.TheMediaOasis.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RayHanania.)

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