February 8, 2001
As a direct result of AOPA legislative efforts, Congress may step in to save Chicago's Meigs Field airport. After AOPA meetings with Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald, last night he added an amendment to the Department of Transportation fiscal year 2002 appropriations bill that states area reliever and general aviation airports like Meigs must be preserved and utilized as part of a plan to solve congestion at O'Hare International Airport.
In his most recent meetings with Sen. Fitzgerald last week, AOPA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Bill Deere helped craft the amendment language. AOPA President Phil Boyer sent letters to key Senate members, urging support for the Fitzgerald-Inhofe amendment. (General aviation supporter Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is co-sponsoring the amendment. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin is also a supporter.) [See also AOPA's letter to Sen. Patty Murray.]
The amendment was added to a section of the bill that "encourages" Chicago and Illinois to jointly develop a plan for O'Hare and a new, third commercial service airport, and threatens federal intervention if the city and state don't develop a satisfactory solution to area airport congestion problems.
Meanwhile, Illinois Governor George Ryan announced that he will present an alternative to Chicago's current O'Hare plans, which includes extending the life of Meigs Field.
Meigs is slated to close in February 2002. Located on the downtown Chicago waterfront, Meigs is the preferred alternative for business and general aviation aircraft.
"Closure of this airport is analogous to eliminating a viable off-ramp from a congested highway system," says AOPA President Phil Boyer. "With runway capacity at a critical stage in the Chicago area, does it make sense to close an operating reliever airport?"
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