For years, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has advocated for a third airport in Chicago’s South Suburbs near the town of Peotone. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has instead pushed for a fourth runway at O’Hare International Airport as part of his $7.3 billion infrastructure plan. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that “O’Hare’s capacity will grow by the size of Midway’s total capacity.” In response, Jackson once again argued that a fourth runway at O’Hare will not solve Chicago’s egregious air
But Jackson’s dream for a third airport is not feasible because it would take too long to build.
Something as massive as an airport takes years—sometimes decades—to plan and build. Federal regulations must be followed, involving collaboration with various organizations and agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration must approve permits and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has to declare the plan environmentally sound. While some of these first steps have been taken, it would still be years before the third airport is complete.
Chicago’s airports are experiencing drastic pressures that may not wait for the tedious process involving a third
Along with O’Hare’s expansion, the city is now mulling over privatizing Midway Airport. Privatization could mean numerous changes to Midway, depending on who signs on the dotted line. If the FAA decides to grant Chicago nine months to make its decision, a flurry of investors will be knocking at City Hall’s door. Finding the right selling price for the airport is an important discussion the entire city should be part of, rather than worrying about building another that, according to Emanuel, wouldn’t have much of a beneficial effect on air traffic anyway.
For air traffic control, sticking to the alternatives is the best choice. This means a fourth runway at O’Hare or possibly expanding the airport in Gary, Ind.