Chicago mayor pulls plug on Midway deal

September 6, 2013

(Flickr/One Old Squid)
A Southwest Airlines plane lands at Midway Airport. The city of Chicago is dropping plans to privatize the airport.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ending an effort to try to find a private company to operate Midway Airport.
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­Emanuel hoped to lease out Midway Airport for 40 years in exchange for $2 billion. But after one of the two bidders dropped out, the mayor reportedly didn’t want to settle for a single bidder.

Peter Skosey, who heads a mayoral commission to review the Midway deal, said they’ve been working to privatize the airport for the last nine months and were scheduled to meet Friday.

But Skosey, who’s also executive vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago, said he wasn’t disappointed by Emanuel’s decision.

“We’re interested in doing this deal if it’s the right deal to do at this time. So for whatever reason, if the numbers come back and they don’t look favorable, if the deal terms turn out not to be good for the residents of Chicago, then I think it would be everyone’s preference not to do the deal,” Skosey told WBEZ. “So, it’s not a question of being disappointed or happy about it. It’s a question of making sure we get the right deal at the right time.”

The original push to privatize Midway came in 2009 under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. But that project couldn’t get financing at the time, due to the nation’s financial meltdown. ­­

Midway Airport isn’t the only Chicago area airport that had been pegged for privatization. The Gary Chicago International Airport in Indiana, which the city of Chicago is a partner in, is also considering going private.

The Gary Chicago Airport Authority will also meet Friday to review proposals received so far. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Emanuel’s decision not to seek privatization for Midway won’t have any bearing on Gary’s efforts.

“They (Chicago) were really trying to see what they could get from the (Midway) airport as an asset, where ours is really is a desire to develop an under-developed asset,” Freeman-Wilson said. “They have done a really good job at developing Midway .… Mayor Emanuel’s decision doesn’t necessarily change the reasons that we wanted to explore a public-private partnership in the first place. Those reasons still exist, and they weren’t dependent on what Chicago did.” 

Follow WBEZ NWI bureau reporter Michael Puente on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.