State Journal-Register

Mar 04, 2001

Section: LOCAL

Page: 12

Durbin backs expedited Peotone study


WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is throwing his support behind Gov. George Ryan's efforts to get an expedited environmental review of a proposed third Chicago-area airport in Peotone.

In a letter to be sent Monday to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Durbin also said he backs the state's request to have Peotone returned to the national airport planning list - making it eligible for federal funding.

However, Durbin stopped short of fully endorsing the proposed airport site.

"I have no desire or expertise to pick or finalize a site. I'll leave that important work to the state of Illinois and U.S. Department of Transportation."

Durbin plans to send the letter to Mineta on Monday just as a delegation of suburban mayors and members of Congress arrive to lobby the Bush administration to adopt the Peotone plan.

He wrote the letter after Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown asked for his support last week. Mineta told Ryan and Brown last week that he wanted to survey the Illinois congregational delegation on the Peotone requests.

"We want to make it clear that the senator is not standing in the way on this,'' a Durbin aide said. "He's not going to be an obstructionist.''

Supporters of the proposed Peotone airport were irritated when Durbin last month wrote Mineta urging him to consider Greater Rockford Airport among the options for easing congestion at O'Hare. In that letter he stated: "I am not committed to any particular site or facility.''

In the latest letter, Durbin suggests existing airports at Rockford and Gary, Indiana, could be used to provide immediate relief of O'Hare's congestion.

"I believe a third Chicago area airport will be needed in the near future for passengers, cargo, and general aviation. Congestion, delays and cancellations at O'Hare International Airport and rapidly increasing traffic at Midway Airport are convincing indicators,'' he wrote.

"I believe we also must advance both short-term and long-term solutions to ease Chicago air traffic congestion, including supporting preliminary work on a third airport,'' he wrote.

"In addition to the state's Peotone proposal, communities such as Rockford and Gary, Ind., have indicated a willingness to help provide relief immediately,'' he stated.