Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. joined with pastors and community leaders on Saturday morning for a symbolic ground breaking at the location of where he hopes to build Chicago’s third airport.
“We're here today to plant a new and different seed -- an economic seed,” said Jackson at the ceremony. “ An economic seed that will create an airport, that will reap the immediate bounty of 1,000 jobs to build it; 15,000 more permanent jobs on opening day; and hundreds of thousands of new jobs over the next several decades.”
The symbolic ground breaking in Monee at 9 a.m. was a call of action for construction to begin on a project he has been promoting since taking office in 1995.
The project has been beset over the years by arguments over where to build the airport, opposition from major airlines and — most recently — a battle over who would control it. Jackson's Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission, a grouping of 21 municipal governments in the Chicago area, is seeking the go-ahead from Governor Pat Quinn and says it has lined up $700 million in private funds and two developers.
On Thursday, United Continental Holdings Inc. CEO and Chairman Jeff Smisek spoke to the City Club of Chicago and said "there's no demand" for a third airport. He said any benefits from a proposed third Chicago-area airport near Peotone would damage O'Hare International Airport. Smisek also says it's more important to modernize air traffic control systems at O'Hare rather than add runways.
Jackson says the airport would be built at no cost to taxpayers or airlines and would decrease fares by increasing competition, in addition to creating jobs.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Transportation began clearing trees from the proposed site. Some of the local residents charged the tree cutting as IDOT's latest tactic in an ongoing campaign to intimidate locals near the proposed airport site on West Eagle Lake Road.
In March, Quinn threw his support behind building a third airport and pledged $100 million in state funds to buy land in Will County.