Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Roper to Testify On The Challenges of Runway Construction Before U.S. House Subcommittee

May 24, 2001, 01:00 ET from Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

    CHICAGO, May 24 /PRNewswire/ -- "The nation's aviation system is going
 'BANANAs,'" Jerry Roper, President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of
 Commerce, will tell the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure
 Subcommittee on Aviation in a hearing today.
     Mr. Roper is testifying before the House Aviation Subcommittee on behalf
 of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to encourage federal lawmakers to step up
 their involvement with local government officials in order to streamline the
 airport construction approval process.  The hearing is scheduled for Thursday,
 May 24, at 11 a.m. (EST) at the Sam Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2167,
 in Washington, D.C.
     Citing recent efforts by government and business leaders in Chicago to
 build a new runway at O'Hare International Airport as an example, Mr. Roper
 will explain how inadequate capacity causes a drain on the local economy.  A
 recent analysis by Deloitte & Touche LLP showed that aviation delays have cost
 Chicago businesses an estimated $3 billion last year in expenses and lost
     Conversely, airport expansion sparks job growth and economic development
 and ensures a safe, efficient and sound aviation system.  According to a 1998
 Booz-Allen & Hamilton report, the Chicagoland region faces lost growth
 opportunity of $10 billion annually and more than 100,000 jobs if O'Hare
 continues to be constrained.
     But even at a time when commercial air travel and airfreight shipping are
 both skyrocketing, capacity at the nation's airports has been -- and continues
 to be -- largely stagnant because local governments are sometimes reluctant to
 confront anti-growth groups that want to stifle airport expansion projects.
     "Their battle cry has evolved from NIMBY -- Not In My Back Yard -- to
 BANANA -- Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything," Mr. Roper says.
 "Local anti-growth forces hold airport expansion projects hostage with
 unreasonable demands.  They fail to see the big picture.  These groups may
 think they are protecting their communities, but what they are really doing is
 adding more congestion and gridlock to the entire system."
     In the past five years, the number of passengers on U.S. airlines has
 increased 27%, Mr. Roper says.  Last year, there were more than 680 million
 commercial air travelers and that number is expected to grow to more than
 1 billion within 10 years.  Meanwhile, U.S. cargo carriers nearly doubled the
 amount of freight they carried between 1989 and 1999.  They are expected to
 triple that amount by 2015.  However, according to the Federal Aviation
 Administration, 27 major airports in the U.S. are considered seriously
 congested.  If improvements are not made, that number will grow to 31 by 2007.
     "These statistics are disturbing," Mr. Roper says.  "It is also disturbing
 that communities that have made firm commitments to expand airport facilities
 are hamstrung by red tape.  In the best of cases, it takes 10 to 15 years to
 clear all the hurdles to build what amounts to a very wide two-mile stretch of
 road.  The federal government must join with local governments to streamline
 the airport construction approval process so we can build the infrastructure
 we need in the time we need it."
     The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce was the first regional chamber of
 commerce in the United States and has served independent businesses throughout
 the metropolitan area since 1904. The mission of the Chicagoland Chamber is to
 make Chicagoland the most business-friendly region in America and enhance our
 members' success through aggressive programs of advocacy, member benefits and
 services, and actionable information.
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SOURCE Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce