August 18, 2004

Obama Should Reconsider Peotone Support 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:11 AM
Barack Obama has come out in favor of building a third major regional airport in the south-suburban area around Peotone. It's a position he ought to reconsider. With delays at O'Hare leading to self-imposed caps on the number of flights by United and American as a reminder, the need to address the region's long-term transportation capacity is clear. Obama supports the expansion and modernization of O'Hare, which makes sense -- it's already a built and heavily utilized airport, the relative displacement of homes and wildlife would be small -- but a Peotone airport would create suburban sprawl (the airport would be 40 miles from downtown Chicago, requiring a estimated 100 miles of new toll roads, and there's no indication that local officials will push for high-density development), endanger the surrounding wetlands and the biodiversity they support, and pollute the watershed from storm run-off, all for a massive airport -- three times the current size of O'Hare -- that the major carriers aren't interested in (they're firmly planted at O'Hare), and so would be depending on low-cost carriers, who are already successful at Midway, an in-town and easily accessible location.

Better to use his political capital for efforts to build out high-speed rail links -- think Chicago-Minneapolis, Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Cleveland in the 2- to 3-hour range. Those 100- to 400-mile trips are expensive to operate by air and constitute a large number of the total flights each day. Building that infrastructure and the linkages to existing airports would create jobs and be less environmentally impactful.

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