Phase One of Gary/Chicago Airport Master Plan Update Explored

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GUESTS LISTEN TO presentations by the Gary Airport Authority on the Master Plan. The update meeting was held at the Gary/Chicago Airport. (Photo by Ted Brown)

By Michelle Bass, Gary Crusader

On February 13 over 80 Gary residents and stakeholders met to listen and discuss future plans for the Gary/Chicago International Airport’s Master Plan Update. The Plan consists of four phases, Monday’s meeting covered phase one.

The Master Plan is a document that forecasts the potential growth and improvement needs of the airport during a typical 20-year span. The planning team developed the Master Plan a year ago after hosting a business expo with over 70 local companies pitching their services. Jim Wilson of Jacobson & Daniel and his team were selected.

Wilson says there is no science in projecting the outcome or the success of the project. “We don’t have crystal balls. We can’t guarantee there will be a certain amount of activity here 5, 10, even 6 months from now” he said, explaining the realities of forecasting.

According to forecasters 100,000 passengers are needed to expand an airport layout plan. “We plan for everything we do, if you don’t have a plan, you fail,” stated Stephen Mays, the Gary/Chicago Airport’s Board Chairman. He added that a Master Plan without clear projects identified, cannot receive federal funding.

“We want to be the region’s premier midsized public airport, providing world class service to the aviation community,” Dan Vicari, Executive Director of the airport explained to an eager audience. He further clarified that planners want this endeavor to be a significant asset to the city of Gary, and to the region, driving economic growth and job security.

Since the runway expansion of 2015, Gary/Chicago Airport has been able to increase its acceptance of larger, heavier aircraft flying to farther destinations. This has also allowed for an 18% operational increase for the airport. Last year the airport boasted 25,000 in operations–this would include take offs and landings.

Along with Gary, Jet Center has broken ground on a fixed based, state of the art facility. FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) like B. Coleman Aviation have entered into an agreement to expand their facilities over the next several years. This would yield the airport an additional $20 million in investments.

Last year, the Gary/Chicago Airport approached the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office in Chicago to request a project manager to facilitate the process of designing a center. Once a project manager was selected from CBP, planners were able to obtain airport engineering staff and local Gary talent. “We have been given a green light to submit 100% design and specs to them for final approval” Vicari said, referring to CBP.

The plan has to be approved by the Customs and Border Protection Office to move forward. The project will begin construction sometime this year. This expansion will help users who fly internationally every week avoid the extra cost of flying to another domicile for clearance, such as Midway airport, prior to flying to Gary.

When attendees questioned the possibility of using the airport to partner with the deportation of illegals, Airport officials extended an invitation to attend the next phase where the topic would be explored further.

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