P3 pushed for third Chicago airport

Illinois could move ahead with the first-ever ‘greenfield’ airport P3.

Illinois is considering using a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) to add a third Chicago-area air field to complement Midway International Airport and O’Hare International Airport.

A bill passed in the state General Assembly and en route to the Senate would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to use a P3 for the proposed ‘South Suburban Airport’. If approved, the South Suburban Airport would be the first ever ‘greenfield’ airport P3.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn praised the House vote, characterising the project as a “huge economic engine”.

Quinn, a Democrat elected Governor in 2009, has emerged as a proponent of using private capital to build infrastructure in the US Midwest state. In addition to the air field project, Quinn is also supporting using a P3 for the ‘Illiana Corridor’ road project.

However Rahm Emanuel, himself a P3 backer, has criticised adding another air field.

Chicago Mayor Emanuel, whose administration ushered in the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT), a $7 billion venture to funnel private capital toward infrastructure in the Windy City, has questioned if adding a third air field would be cost-effective. Instead, Emanuel, who took office in 2011, has suggested expanding O’Hare International via the CIT.

The envisioned ‘South Suburban Airport,’ which has also been tagged the ‘Abraham Lincoln National Airport,’ would be located in Peotone, a suburb of Chicago.

The idea of a third air field in Chicago first emerged in 1968.

Chicago became ‘ground zero’ for ‘brownfield’ privatisation with its 2005 Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge System and its subsequent parking concession.

A would-be P3 of Midway International fell through in 2009, but was revived in January when Chicago published a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a 40-year lease.