Gary Airport Gets $60 Million Grant

January 17, 2006

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A $60 million federal grant to expand the Gary Airport is reinvigorating debate over a third major airport in the Chicago region.

Indiana officials say the money will be used to lengthen a runway and build a terminal.

They point to the investment as proof that the federal government thinks Gary is the best option for a third airport in the region.

But backers of a south suburban airport in Peotone, Ill., say expansion at Gary will not affect their plans.

Chris Kennedy is a spokesman for Republican Congressman Jerry Weller, whose district includes the Peotone area.

""Gary, at this moment, already has a runway which is longer than any runway at Midway Airport, and still has not been able to retain consistent and regular commercial traffic,"" he says. ""The closest it has ever come is Hooters Airways, I think.""

Hooters Air suspended its service out of Gary last week. But the director of the Gary airport expects Hooters to resume service in March.

He adds highway access, commuter rail service and proximity to Chicago's downtown make Gary an attractive alternative to O'Hare and Midway.

He says low-cost carriers with older planes that require longer runways will be able to operate out of Gary when the expansion is complete.
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