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South Suburban Airport Bill Signed in IL: The Impact

man at a podium with microphones
State Representative Will Davis sponsored the airport bill in the Illinois House. (Photo John Hudzik)

University Park, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Congresswoman Robin Kelly gathered numerous political leaders from throughout the south suburbs at Governors State University on Tuesday to celebrate the passage of an amendment to the South Suburban Airport Act signed by Governor Pritzker on July 28.

House Bill 2531 goes into effect on January 1, 2024. It directs the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to find public-private partnerships to construct an airport. IDOT must establish the prequalification process and begin reviewing proposals within six months. Construction of the airport would be on the site of the current Bult Field near Peotone.

South Suburban Airport has been discussed for decades.

Kelly noted that the airport has been under consideration for more than thirty years. This is longer than she has been in Congress. “When I first came to Congress in 2013, then-Governor Quinn signed the (original) South Suburban Airport Act to build a new airport in the Southland to spur economic growth and enhance Illinois’ world-class transportation system.”

The design of the airport is to be primarily a cargo airport. It will serve the growing distribution needs of companies such as Amazon. Representative Will Davis (D-30), who sponsored the bill in the Illinois House, noted that Amazon has 29 fulfillment centers between the Indiana border and the west side of Joliet.

South Suburban Airport will bring economic growth to the region.

“We have not had a large-scale infrastructure project in the southland for many, many, many years, and this project is just the beginning,” Davis commented.

Vernard Alsberry, Jr. noted that local government leaders are excited to see the new airport because of the airport’s tax dollars and the supporting businesses will bring to the area. Alsberry is Hazel Crest Mayor and former South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association President.

Tim Nugent said the airport will be the first net-zero carbon emissions airport ever built in the United States. Nugent is the president of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County. The facility will use solar-powered lighting. It will employ geothermal heating and cooling of the warehouses and terminals. There will be electric vehicles to transfer people and cargo.

Bill will determine if there is business support for an airport

Speakers noted that the viability of a south suburban airport has been under debate for decades. However, the current bill would answer whether sufficient business interest exists to move forward.

State Senator Napolean Harris (D-15) sponsored the bill in the Illinois Senate and said passage of the bill “will answer the two key questions: Is the airport coming, and does anyone want to build it? In about a year from now, we will finally have that answer.”

Several speakers, including Davis and Harris, credited Rick Bryant, Senior Advisor to Rep. Kelly, for his long-standing passion for the project and keeping the airport dream alive. Bryant has been working on this project behind the scenes for decades.

Other leaders who spoke at the event and voiced their support for the airport. These included GSU President Cheryl Green, Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin (D-38), State Senator Michael Hastings (D-19), Southland Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Bonita Estelle, and Rev. James Hunt.

“Buckle Up Southland! Prepare for Takeoff”

Large group of people standing behind a sign with a picture of an airplane
Community leaders from throughout the south suburbs were on hand to celebrate the passage of the airport bill. (Photo John Hudzik)

Kelly said the bill will “notify the aviation industry that Illinois is finally open for business for a new airport.” She closed with the motto for the project: ‘Buckle Up Southland! Prepare for Takeoff.’”