Illinois senate passes bill paving way for south suburban cargo airport

Sarah Schulte Image
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Illinois senate passes bill paving way for south suburban airport
The Illinois Senate passed a bill requiring IDOT to begin the process that could lead to a south suburban cargo airport in Peotone.

PEOTONE, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois will officially begin looking into a possible third airport in the Chicago area after the senate passed a bill requiring IDOT to begin the process that could lead to a cargo airport in Peotone.

Robert Ogalla runs a family farm in Peotone that his parents bought in the 1950s. He said they moved to Will County from a neighborhood near O'Hare Airport.

"They realized they wanted to get out of the area and ironically we landed here," he said.

Where he lives is in the middle of the site for a proposed third Chicago area airport.

The idea of a south suburban airport has been tossed around for nearly 50 years, so long that one of the Ogallas' trees have grown around an anti-airport sign they put up decades ago.

"I believe it was 1991. Governor Edgar at the time told us planes would be landing by 1996, as you can see it hasn't happened yet," Ogalla said.

But the state has spent years and close to $100 million buying up land around the Ogalla family farm, and now state lawmakers are sending Governor JB Pritzker legislation that makes the south suburban airport a step closer to reality.

"It's a crucial piece of legislation that will jumpstart the process of finding partners in the construction of the airport to make it a reality for the region," said State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex).

The legislation promises tens of thousands of jobs as it calls for the airport to be cargo only, counting on the Amazon regional distribution center and other warehouses to support the need in a region lawmakers call a transportation hub.

"Having an airport will allow for our region to continue our successful growth and economic success," said State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort).

But the state still needs to buy 10% of the remaining land, and the Ogallas and other farmers refuse to sell.

"I fished in this creek behind us with my father, my sons have fished in that creek with me and a few years my grandchildren may so how do you value on that?" Ogalla said.

As far as Pritzker is concern, the airport is not full speed ahead. Beside the challenges of procuring the land, the governor wants to make sure there are enough cargo carriers to support the airport.