State Journal-Register

Feb 27, 2001

Section: LOCAL

Page: 8

Peotone airport study to be expedited


WASHINGTON - Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta promised Illinois Gov. George Ryan Monday that the federal government would speed up an environmental impact study for a new Chicago-area airport near Peotone.

The process usually takes one to three years. At Ryan's request, Mineta said he  "would take a look at" finishing it this year, Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton  said.

Mineta also indicated he would consider putting Peotone back on an airport  priority list, called the National Plan for Integrated Airport Systems, making it eligible for federal funding, Culloton said. It was removed from that list in 1997.

But Mineta first will seek input from the Illinois congressional delegation.

Ryan and Mineta met for about 30 minutes Monday afternoon while Ryan was in town for the National Governors Association winter conference. They also sat at the same table at a formal White House dinner for the governors Sunday night.

Ryan announced last week he would begin buying land for the new Chicago-area airport that supporters say will alleviate air traffic congestion there. 

But it's unclear whether the state legislature will go along. The plan is opposed by many Democrats, including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Ryan had previously said he would not start buying land until the Federal Aviation Administration completed its environmental assessment.

Earlier Monday, Ryan and other governors from around the nation met with President Bush, who promised to relax federal regulations on their states.

Ryan praised Bush's education agenda, his proposed tax cuts and his commitment to preserving the ethanol tax credit.

Midwestern governors have expressed interest in Ryan leading a delegation to Cuba. But Ryan said such a trip should be delayed until the Bush administration has had time to develop a travel and trade policy on Cuba.