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Gary/Chicago Int'l Airport Runway Expansion Stalls

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Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson today joined officials from the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) to announce that final-phase construction of the airport’s large-scale runway expansion program will be postponed this year in order to clean up higher than expected quantities of ground contamination.     

The new expanded runway is now expected to be done in September 2014.

The mayor also called on railroads whose tracks operate near the airport to quickly settle legal negotiations of utility easements under railroad rights-of-way so that trains can be relocated to new tracks to make way for final-phase runway construction. Two railroads must also resolve separate agreements between themselves. The Airport Authority is not a legal party to the railroad negotiations. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) are working closely with the City of Gary, the Airport Authority and the RDA on environmental remediation strategies.

“The City of Gary and Northwest Indiana have heavy industrial legacies which bring a lot of sensitive and unexpected environmental issues to resolve,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, City of Gary. “We are all working together to tackle the problems quickly and effectively so that final-phase construction can swiftly move forward.”

The RDA and the FAA are the primary funders of the $166 million runway expansion project to extend the main 7,000-foot runway by 1,900 feet.

"Delays are unfortunate but common on construction projects of this scope and complexity," said Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA. "We remain confident that the expansion will be completed and will fuel economic growth in Gary and across the region."

Clean up of environmental issues is essential as the FAA and the Airport Authority work to decommission navigational equipment and relocate aircraft navigational aids for the expanded runway.

In addition to the runway expansion, an Ad Hoc committee established by the Airport Authority recently received a number of responses from private sector interests to the airport’s Request for Expressions of Interest and Qualifications (REIQ) to gather a broad array of approaches and ideas to invest in the airport and the surrounding area through a potential public-private partnership (P3). The committee anticipates following up the REIQ with a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) later this summer.

The airport’s active exploration of a potential P3 to invest in the airport and the surrounding area began in March.  A team of a highly qualified financial experts, project managers and legal advisers were engaged by the Airport Authority in April to assist in the P3 exploration.  The team includes A.C. Advisory Inc., JClark Consulting Group, LLC and Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

The third airport of the Chicago Aviation System, the Gary/Chicago International Airport is less than 30 minutes from the heart of the tri-state region – the city of Chicago. The airport is directly connected to Chicago’s transportation network through rail and maritime freight, interstate and mass transit integration.

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