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Gary/Chicago International Airport Expansion Complete

Monday, August 03, 2015

The project was a long time in the making: multiple railroad tracks had to be rerouted, large patches of contaminated soil had to be mitigated and $174 million worth of funding had to be secured. In the end, it was a 10 year project.

But in June, planes were finally cleared for takeoff on the newly expanded strip, accomplishing one of the top priorities of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, she said the 10-year effort will be an economic driver, especially given the limitation of the previous runway. At only 7,000 feet (before the expansion), it did not meet the needs of commercial and cargo carriers.

According to a June 22 article in the Post Tribune, the city had identified a longer runway as a priority for decades, but ran into many obstacles. The location had three class-1 railways, which had to be moved, and two closed contaminated sites, which needed to be mitigated. There was also the question of funding.

U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, helped solve this last issue by helping to secure $57.8 million in federal funds, with a state and local match provided by the formation of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

But there have already been benefits to the project. Recently the Terre Haute-based Garmong Construction Services Company and the city announced a partnership to build a $13.3 million speculative building on the airport property to capitalize on the prospect of attracting new industries.

Carmeuse Lime and Stone is also planning an $18 million expansion in the city's Buffington Harbor area, and Gary is expected to receive up to $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies' Public Art Challenge for the city's "ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen" project.

Delbert Brown, Airport Manager
Gary/Chicago International Airport

Karen Freeman-Wilson, Mayor
City of Gary