Bypass gets boost from bipartisanship
By Robert Schillerstrom and Raja Krishnamoorthi
Is that a glimmer of bipartisan sunshine on the western horizon of Chicago? Is it possible for leaders from different parties to work together for the good of all? For too long in our state, we have had standoffs instead of ribbon cuttings and finger pointing instead of handshakes to seal deals to move our state forward. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, though, good things can happen in Illinois when people with different views are willing to work together.
On June 13, the Illinois Tollway Board voted to approve a letter of intent with Canadian Pacific Railway that creates the framework for a final agreement that will complete a western access road to O’Hare International Airport. This is a huge step toward resolving issues related to the construction of this vital new roadway. Now, with this approval, the largest infrastructure project in the Chicago suburbs is finally on a forward trajectory.
The dream of building a western access road to O’Hare International Airport has been languishing for decades — even though it has won support from nearly every federal, state and local actor in public and private life: Chicago and the suburbs; Republicans and Democrats; business and labor; even Cubs and Sox fans.
The potential benefits are enormous. Building a western access road to O’Hare will create and support nearly 25,000 jobs in construction and engineering.
While the recently released O’Hare Modernization Plan did not include a commitment we wanted for a new western terminal at O’Hare, we are subscribing to the motto from the movie “Field of Dreams” that “if you build it, they will come.” The long-awaited western access to O’Hare will open up a flood of passengers from the Chicago suburbs making their way to flights through the new access point agreed upon by the Tollway and Canadian Pacific.
Once the project is completed, the region will realize 65,000 permanent jobs — 44,000 in Cook County and nearly half that many in DuPage. A new, western access road to O’Hare would bring with it 10 million square feet of new office, retail and industrial space, along with 7,000 new hotel rooms. It would result in an estimated $29 million in new annual tax revenue and increase the regional economic output by $6 billion.
In a state where the headlines are almost always about budget deficits and financial stress, it’s critical to note that funding for the road is not an issue. The Tollway has the ability to finance the project to completion. Now that we have a signed letter of intent between the Tollway and Canadian Pacific, the long-sought western access project is closer than ever.
We hope that this bipartisan infrastructure project will be the first of many in Chicago and Illinois in which politicians put aside partisan differences to focus on jobs and economic development. Let’s all keep working together to keep the sun shining on projects like western access to O’Hare that will boost our economy and build a brighter future for our region.
Republican Robert Schillerstrom of Naperville is chairman of the Illinois Tollway and former Republican DuPage County Board chairman. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, is U.S. congressman from the 8th District.