Chicago’s Meigs Field airport to reopen, Illinois DOT cites efforts of AOPA and local pilots
An agreement between the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois will allow Chicago’s downtown lakefront Meigs Field to reopen and operate for at least five years. Illinois Governor Jim Edgar announced the formal agreement January 6 that will be submitted to state court in settlement of Illinois’ outstanding lawsuit against Meigs’ closure.
Illinois Secretary of Transportation Kirk Brown told AOPA officials January 6, “This agreement wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the support from AOPA and The Friends of Meigs,” the local airport support group.
AOPA President Phil Boyer said the Meigs agreement demonstrated the power of a strong national organization working with a local advocacy group.
“The ‘Xs’ are coming off one of the most important runways in the nation,” commented Boyer. “Now we can move the Meigs issue out of the political arena and fairly measure the airport’s value to Chicago and the Midwest.”
AOPA and others have been campaigning vigorously to prevent the airport’s destruction, arguing Meigs’ value for regional business and commerce, for emergency air services, and in its role as an FAA-designated reliever airport as part of an integrated airport system.
The formal settlement calls for the city to operate and promote the use of Meigs for five years. The airport will reopen as soon as possible—probably within two to three weeks—pending FAA recertification of equipment and air traffic control facilities.
The settlement calls for the city to install, and the state to fund, an instrument approach, which will also increase utilization of Meigs. In addition, the city will make needed repairs to the airport, including fixing cracks in the runway pavement.
The city will ask the FAA to operate the Meigs control tower until midnight each day instead of 10 p.m. to increase the airport’s utility.
Both the city and state will ask the Illinois court to grant a permanent injunction enforcing the settlement. If the city defaults on the agreement during the five-year period, the state may take immediate control of the airport. For its part, Illinois will withdraw the pending lawsuit and agree that at the end of five years, Chicago is free to do as it wants with the airport.
Separately, AOPA President Boyer called for establishment of a task force, including Chicago and state officials, business leaders, and regional airport users, to submit recommendations regarding the long-term future of the airport. The task force will study the economic and environmental impacts of Meigs and examine airport financing. Recommendations will be issued in 18 months to two years.
“We believe that Meigs will become even more important to Chicago over the next five years, and that’s why this agreement is such good news,” said Boyer.
“With improvements, particularly an instrument approach, more traffic will use this convenient downtown airport. And as airline growth continues at Midway Airport, Meigs will become even more necessary as a general aviation reliever airport.”
January 6, 1997