Senator successfully brought together key stakeholders, so project could be completed
Gary, Ind. – July 13, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly today participated in the official opening of the expanded runway at Gary/Chicago International Airport. Donnelly was joined by: Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Indiana Regional Development Authority, and Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority; and elected officials among others. Donnelly and his staff worked closely with key stakeholders to resolve issues that had been causing the runway expansion project to stall.
Donnelly said, “This is a great day for Gary/Chicago International Airport and the City of Gary. I am pleased I could play a role in helping the Gary/Chicago Airport expansion project to completion because this project is important for improving infrastructure, growing Gary’s economy, and boosting the economy of Northwest Indiana.
“The journey to reach today was not easy, as we had to overcome many challenges along the way. We worked to bring all the parties together over the past 18-plus months to break through the hurdles and issues that stood in the way of this project moving forward. This was a team effort, and I would like to thank all those who were great partners in helping this project reach the finish line: Mayor Freeman-Wilson; other officials from the City of Gary; the Gary airport authority; Congressman Pete Visclosky; federal agencies including Department of Transportation and its Surface Transportation Board, the FAA, and the EPA; state agencies including INDOT and IDEM; and the railroad companies: CN, CSX, and NS, for their cooperation and commitment to this project.”
Donnelly met with Mayor Freeman-Wilson in 2013, and the Mayor expressed her concern about the status of the Gary/Chicago International runway expansion project, given that project agreements needed to be in place with the three railroad companies in order for the runway expansion to be completed to meet approaching deadlines. Without removal and relocation of the railroad tracks, Gary Airport would not have been able to move forward with the expansion project. The FAA had told the airport if the expansion project could not be completed by June 25, 2015, its current runway would need to be shortened for safety reasons. As a result, the runway would not have met the required standards for many cargo and passenger planes.
Donnelly reached out to each of the railroads separately, and then convened a meeting with representatives from all three railroad companies in Washington. During that meeting Donnelly pledged to work with the railroad companies to get agreements in place and to ensure the project moved forward and would get completed in time. Donnelly’s office then facilitated weekly calls with the railroad companies to work through outstanding issues. With significant hurdles remaining, Donnelly called for and helped convene two additional meetings to work directly with the railroad companies at the Gary/Chicago airport. Finally, all the parties reached an agreement in October 2014, and the project moved forward. Later that month, Donnelly joined Gary elected officials, including Mayor Freeman-Wilson, Visclosky, and key stakeholders to tout the new construction underway that allowed for expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport runway expansion to move forward.