Governor Ryan Announces Safe Airports for the Economy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2001
Regional Airport Plan to Modernize O'Hare, Build Peotone, Enhance Security Keeps Meigs Open, Utilize Rockford's Airport
CHICAGO -- Gov. George H. Ryan today unveiled a comprehensive, long-range, regional aviation plan to stimulate the economy by building an airport in Peotone, modernizing O'Hare with a reconfigured airfield, utilizing Meigs Field and Rockford's Airport, and enhancing the security of Illinois airports with a $300 million low-interest loan program to purchase security technology.
"Because of September 11th, things changed dramatically. I have concluded that a bold, comprehensive aviation plan is an absolute necessity in order to send a strong message that we will keep our economy strong," Gov. Ryan said. "We must stimulate our economy with a plan that secures our airports and puts our people to work."
The $6 billion Safe Airports For the Economy (SAFE) plan will build Peotone, creating 10,000 construction jobs within 2 years.
Projections indicate that in the first year, the inaugural airport would increase air capacity for the region by 66,700. In 5 years after the airport opens, operations could total 125,300. The airport could handle more than 2 million passengers and as many as 4 million within three years of opening. The inaugural airport would be designed to grow with demand for new air capacity in the region.
A market for the airport exists outside of downtown Chicago and the Northwest Suburbs. According to the 200 U.S. Census, the Illinois population in the area immediately surrounding Peotone has increased by 16 percent in the last 10 years to more than 1.3 million people. This includes a 40 percent population increase in Will County and neighboring Kendall County.
The Governor called upon Mayor Daley, the airlines and Congressional leaders to work with his administration to seek federal funds for constructing Peotone to boost the region's economy.
The Governor's plan to modernize O'Hare calls for demolishing 3 existing runways and building three East-West parallel runways, beginning with a runway on the North airfield. Two other existing crosswind runways remain intact.
The SAFE plan O'Hare proposal will reduce flight delays significantly. The North runway alone will reduce weather-related delays by 95 percent. The entire reconfiguration of the airfield will keep operations running efficiently and keep delays substantially below FAA congestion standards.
To ensure air traffic does not become congested in the future and create new delay troubles, the Governor proposes flight caps of 1.1 million annually, or about 3,000 operations a day, a level not expected to be reached at O'Hare for 10 to 15 years. Before September 11, O'Hare averaged 2,500 operations daily and more than 900,000 annually.
The number of O'Hare residents impacted by jet noise near O'Hare decreases by 60 percent, from 82,000 to 34,400. The plan provides $450 million for soundproofing homes and schools near O'Hare through the 65 DNL level--a more comprehensive soundproofing program than offered today. The proposed flight caps will assure O'Hare suburbanites that air traffic will not grow beyond reasonable growth over 15 years.
Investing in O'Hare will create more than 110,000 jobs according to numerous studies, including Booz Allen & Hamilton, in addition to the 500,000 jobs currently supported by the region's airport system.
Construction of the inaugural Peotone airport will create 10,000 construction jobs and more than 7,100 permanent jobs.
Security is the top priority of the SAFE plan. The plan offers $300 million in state loans to invest in security enhancing equipment at all Illinois Airports. The Governor proposes focusing on enhanced baggage screening technology so that every piece of checked luggage on domestic flights is screened.
"Focusing on enhanced security will also help rebuild our economy. When people feel more secure, they will return to the skies," Gov. Ryan said.
Assets at Meigs and Rockford
The Governor proposes keeping Meigs Field open and utilizing the untapped potential of Rockford Airport.
"Meigs Field currently handles approximately 37,000 operations annually and is an economic asset to the major corporations and business travelers who routinely use the lakeside airport for quick access to the Loop and McCormick Place," Gov. Ryan said. "It also plays a key role in our region's search and rescue capability."
Expanded use of the Greater Rockford Airport for cargo and passenger flights is also part of the Governor's regional plan.
"We estimate that Greater Rockford can attract as many as 35,000 additional passenger flights annually, creating thousands of new jobs and economic development for that area," the Governor said.
The plan includes $325 million worth of improvements for the main road in and out of O'Hare, I-190, the highway entrance from the Kennedy Expressway. It also includes the construction of the Lee Street Interchange to reduce congestion in the Northwest Suburban area.
The Governor said other important highway and transportation projects proposed in the City of Chicago's plan are longer-term but no less important. However, they require more than $3 billion in funds to complete. The Governor called upon Chicago's Civic Committee to lead regional government, business and civic leaders to work together to secure federal aid and any other sources of funding to support these important regional projects.
Gov. Ryan said the SAFE plan was required in order to help our economy rebound after the September 11 attacks on this country.
"Since September 11, we've become much more aware that air transportation is critical to our nation's economy," Gov. Ryan said. "Air transportation is the great multiplier of economic development. And that is especially true in the Chicagoland region--the center of air transportation in the United States.
"Our plan provides for an economic stimulus and aviation security. It aims to keep our airports safe and our citizens working in quality jobs," Gov. Ryan said.