In his ongoing effort to entice President Barack Obama into helping his beleaguered build-it-they-will-come airport, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. continues to claim that he can deliver a shovel-ready airport at no cost to Illinois taxpayers. He refers to the unsuccessful project that dates back to 1968 known as the Peotone Airport. The State of Illinois calls it the South Suburban Airport. Jackson calls it the Abraham Lincoln National Airport, a name he gave it mirroring the airport authority he created.
Make no mistake, this project isn't close to becoming a shovel-ready project at no cost to the taxpayers.
In a recent rah-rah speech at the NAACP in Kankakee, Illinois, at the southern reaches of Jackson’s newly-drawn second congressional district, Jackson made this outlandish statement, according to a local newspaper.
Jackson failed to explain how a project could be shovel ready when more than half of the land needed for a new airport remains in the hands of landowners unwilling to sell to the state. Or, how does he consider a project shovel-ready when it hasn’t even gained approval by the Federal Aviation Administration? And how can it be shovel-ready when a general aviation airport that is privately owned and sanctioned by the FAA—Bult Field—already operates in the footprint of the airport Jackson and the State of Illinois want to build?
I’d also like Jackson to explain how his pet project would not cost taxpayers. Oh he claims to have investors/developers who will put up their own money to build the Peotone Airport. But the construction of the facility is hardly the only cost to building an airport—one located in the fertile cornfields 40 miles south of the City of Chicago. It would be a facility surrounded by rural land which is serviced by well and septic systems. It would be located amid creeks and streams that tend to overflow during heavy rain amid runoff into one of the cleanest river in the state, the Kankakee. Who will pay to build the infrastructure needed to service an airport in the cornfields if not the taxpayers?
How does Jackson explain buying the remainder of the land, if not at the taxpayers’ expense? Or how can Jackson forget about the tens of millions of dollars already spent on this ill-conceived, folly. Former Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown once estimated the state had spent $100 million on the project. That was during his tenure with the state. He retired in 2002 and went to work for a firm he hired whose work remains associated with the airport project. The costs certainly didn’t retire with Brown. The state has continued to wrack up bills for state-sponsored studies, land acquisition, legal fees, consultants, public relations work, etc.
That was just the past. Future cost to the taxpayers will continue to be thrown at this dead-end project in the form of infrastructure, additional land acquisition costs, and guaranteed legal fees to fight all the innocent landowners who have been under pressure to sell their property since this project began.
It all sounds like the same kind of jive talk Jackson and other airport supporters have been spewing for years. I don’t believe it for one moment.