Emanuel considers privatizing Midway Airport

Administration issues a Request For Qualifications on Friday

December 21, 2012

Quinn Ford

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday the city would look into privatizing Midway Airport.

The announcement comes just in time to make the December 31 deadline for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Airport Privatization Pilot Program.

The city will submit a preliminary application, timetable and draft of a Request for Qualification to the FAA to maintain a spot in the program. Officials said the program will allow the city to gain a better understanding of market conditions for a potential lease for Midway, according to a city press release.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley tried to privatize Midway, but financing for the deal fell through in 2009. The Emanuel administration is stressing how any potential deal would be different from the deal proposed by the prior administration.

The Mayor's Officec said the move is not a commitment to selling Midway Airport, but they did release a list of certain conditions that any buyer would have to meet.

City officials said any lease would last up to 40 years, where Daley had proposed a 99-year lease. A deal would require the private operator to only a "traveler's bill of rights" to ensure customer protection.

The city would also receive revenue over time, instead of one big payment upfront. An Emanuel spokesperson said state law requires any revenue from the deal to go towards city infrastructure, pensions or the operating budget but said the city would not direct any money to the operating budget.

Still, the administration can expect pushback from some Chicagoans who are wary of yet another privatization deal.

Proposed 2012 Deal:

  • Length — No more than 40 years.
  • Payment — Some portion paid upfront, followed by revenue-sharing model over time.
  • Use of Revenue — Initial proceeds used to pay off debt issued by City in 1996 to rebuild Midway Airport. Revenue received over time to be used for ongoing and futre city infrastructure projects.

Proposed 2008 Deal (under former Mayor Richard M. Daley):

  • Length — 99 years
  • Payment — 100 percent made upfront
  • Use of Revenue — Initial proceeds used to pay off debt issued by City in 1996 to rebuild Midway Airport. Remaining proceeds would be used for "capital needs," which includes infrastructure, operating costs and pension obligations (required by law)

(Proposal information provided by Mayor's office.)

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