FILE - Robin Kelly

From left, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., speak during a break in testimony from Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan as he appears before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019.

With state funds earmarked to pave the road leading to it, proponents of a third Chicago-area airport are working to get past opposition to the project.

Lawmakers allocated $162 million in bond-paid money in the state's most recent budget for transportation-related expenses at the “Interchange at Eagle Lake Road.” U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly said in May that the funds represented the funding for the “final leg” to get the South Suburban Airport built in Peotone.

“The time has come to finally build the South Suburban Airport. We know it will create thousands of good-paying jobs, boost our economy and allow Illinois to reclaim its aviation pre-eminence,” Kelly in a statement.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has spent more than $100 million to buy farmland. It acquired 5,000 of the 6,000 acres needed for the initial plan.

Despite the push from lawmakers in far southern Chicago area, support wanes as the scenery along I-57 turns to cornfields.

“It’s a fantasy proposition,” said state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee. “They’re trying to get real dollars to turn around and use it for something else.”

She and others have ramped up opposition to the airport, calling it a “boondoggle” that will cost the state billions of dollars, be wrought with cronyism. She said the project was further hampered by a lack of customer interest.

“Whatever the grand plans they have for the airport, no one is interested,” she said Wednesday. “An airport would cost billions of dollars, the state is broke, and no one is interested in a public-private partnership.”

The most likely candidate to utilize the airport, online retail giant Amazon, refused to commit to making the South Suburban Airport an e-commerce hub. Other potential customers have expanded operations at Rockford’s cargo airport or just over the state border in Gary, Indiana.

Parkhurst has been circulating a petition in a show of opposition to the airport.

The airport’s chances have swayed over the years depending on who has been the governor in recent years. Former Gov. Pat Quinn enacted legislation in 2013 meant to jumpstart the process, but progress stalled under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Gov. J.B. Pritzker told proponents that he would support the project unless it costs jobs at Chicago’s other major airports.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.