Gov. Pat Quinn took a major step Thursday in pushing forward plans for a third Chicago-area airport long supported by former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Quinn signed legislation that clears the way for the Illinois Department of Transportation to build an airport near Peotone, about 40 miles south of downtown Chicago. The bill allows Illinois to pay more than $70 million dollars for the land.
“From day one, I have fought to make the South Suburban Airport a reality in Will County,” Quinn said in a statement. “Today, I am happy to say that our hard work and commitment to getting the job done has paid off. Now we can move forward with the development of this major economic engine that will strengthen our status as the transportation hub of the nation while creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Illinois.”
Communities in Will and Cook counties battled for a decade over control of the project, but Quinn managed to break through the stalemate by including an economic development package with benefits throughout the state.
Jackson and a group of 21 municipal governments in the Chicago area sought the go-ahead from Quinn last year, saying they lined up $700 million in private funds and two developers.
Jackson even held a symbolic ground breaking at the site last April, saying "we're here today to plant a new and different seed -- an economic seed."
Jackson has since pleaded guilty to misusing thousands in campaign funds and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
The state still needs approval from the FAA to move forward with the plan.
Quinn's legislation not only moves forward airport plans, but it also allows construction of an arena for DePaul University near McCormick Place.
Opponents of the plan said this week the money should go to Chicago schools.