Long-Debated Plan For a Third Chicago-Area Airport Gains Traction

The commercial airport would inject thousands of jobs into the economically depressed south Chicago, Illinois suburbs and help unclog the skies.


While the FAA has agreed with the state's projection of nearly 14,000 flights a year at Peotone within six years of its projected opening in 2009, many Illinois business and political leaders say the only real solution for Chicago's clogged aviation system is expanding O'Hare.

''We need to fix O'Hare at O'Hare,'' said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

The O'Hare expansion is a huge, controversial proposal for an airport that logged the worst on-time performance in the nation last year. The plan would add two new runways, reconfigure others and build new terminals. It is still under FAA consideration, but Molinaro said the FAA decision, due in September, will have no bearing on its eventual decision on Peotone.

Regardless, the city's chronically congested skies can only bode well for Peotone's future, says Joseph Schwieterman, an aviation expert at DePaul University.

''Our air-travel system is splitting at the seams,'' he says. ''That makes the outlook much more favorable for a scaled-down airport like Peotone.''

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