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PEOTONE, IL-Proponents of a third Chicago area airport in this far south suburb now have two developers ready to start work, as well as 420 acres acquired by the state for $7.5 million. All they need is state and federal approval of the $400-million project, which already is being hailed as “one of the nation’s most innovative public- private partnerships.”

“They have the cash and they’re ready to go,” US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told reporters Monday, referring to Berwyn, PA-based LCOR Holdings and German-based HOCHTIEF AirPort.

The innovative aspect is the absence of one group that has usually been involved in most airport developments. “Until now, US airports were built with the cooperation of airlines,” Jackson told reporters, adding the result often was in the best interests of the airlines.

Added LCOR senior vice president David A. Sigman, “We’re ready to put a shovel in the ground and move forward.”

LCOR’s recent accomplishments include a $1.4-billion terminal at JFK International in New York. Meanwhile, HOCHTIEF AirPort has built the $2-billion Athens International Airport in Greece.

The public-private partnership is getting a boost from suburban leaders in the flight path of O’Hare International Airport, as well as the footprint for its $6-billion expansion. The newly-formed South Suburban Airport Coalition not only includes the two developers and south suburban officials, it also counts O’Hare neighbors Bensenville, Elk Grove Village and Park Ridge as members of the team who would bring their ability to back revenue bonds to the table. They also are ponying up $1 million each to the development effort.

“The coalition has assembled a team of professionals unlike anything this region has ever seen to build this airport and is excited about successfully initiating such an important development,” says Bensenville Village President John Geils.

Although Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Illinois Governor George Ryan struck an airport deal allowing for both O’Hare expansion and Peotone’s construction, Jackson is dismayed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee’s bill that he claims expands the world’s busiest airport at the expense of a south suburban facility.

“This bill is one-sided against Peotone,” Jackson says. “Rather than reconfiguring O’Hare, Peotone could be completed quicker, cheaper, safer and cleaner. The south suburban airport would go a long way toward ending the economic imbalance in the region, with a disproportionate amount of economic investment concentrated on one side of Chicago.”

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