The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced this week that six firms have responded to their request for information on who would be interested in developing an airfield in southeastern Will County. The initiative, which was not a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) process, was explained as a way for IDOT to gauge continuing interest in the project. Since 2001, the State of Illinois has acquired more than 4,454 acres of land northeast of Peotone, Illinois. Most, but not all, of the land needed to build a modern airport has been acquired at a cost of $95 million.
While development proponents have long dreamed of reducing Illinois’ air traffic congestion through the construction of a third Chicago-area airport, hopes have faded somewhat during the sixteen years that the “Peotone airport” has been under development. The airline industry has sharply reduced its positive attitudes toward new U.S. airport development. Major passenger carriers operating in Illinois have moved their focuses toward more efficient usages of existing runways and gates at Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare International Airports.
IDOT continues to believe that it is possible to develop a thriving Will County commercial airport by predevelopment agreement with an experienced airport developer. The private-sector firm would be responsible for a feasibility analysis, followed by finance and business plans and then actual financing. Implicit in this series of goals is the probability that the developer would be given the chance to finance, design, build, maintain, and operate the airport for a significant length of time after development. A private operator would operate an airport under the supervision of IDOT, just as O’Hare and Midway are operated by the city of Chicago under IDOT’s supervision.