Chicago Executive Airport continues to work on an updated advisory master plan that could include a longer main runway -- an idea drawing concern from some residents in the two towns that own the facility.
Nearby residents and others interested in the airport's future steadily flowed into a two-hour open house to see the master plan options and provide feedback Tuesday night at Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Chicago North Shore in Wheeling. Chicago Executive is co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights.
Wheeling resident Steve Neff attended the session in an effort to gain signatures on a petition to place an advisory referendum on the April ballot linked to the runway idea. The question would ask if Wheeling's president and board of trustees should vote to approve runway expansion beyond existing roads bordering Chicago Executive.
"The airport is landlocked and you can't do (a runway extension) without crossing a major roadway," Neff said.
Craig Louden, who is working with Chicago Executive as a project manager with infrastructure consultant Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc. of Aurora, said the concept of a longer primary runway is part of a larger picture for the airport. He said the bigger runway would have to go beyond the airport's current boundaries.
Louden said the main 5,000-foot runway is not long enough to meet the needs of current users and the projected growth of airplane traffic at Chicago Executive. The advisory master plan, now in its final leg of formation, could include a proposal to expand the primary runway to 5,700 feet, up to a maximum 6,700 feet.
"In particular, when the runway surface is wet, when it's snow-covered or it's ice-covered, that really limits the ability of the operators to utilize the airport," Louden said before the open house. "So, that's why we've addressed the runway length in the master plan."
Neff and others against the concept of the longer runway cite the possibility of displaced residents, worse air quality, added noise and a decline in property values. Chicago Executive is bounded by Hintz Road on the north, Wolf Road on the west, Palatine Road on the south and Milwaukee Avenue on the east.
Officials said the updated master plan also could include proposals for additional parking, construction of an airport administration building, rental car facilities and general economic development opportunities.
Airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott said the facility's board is expected to receive the document in fall 2019. Elected officials in Prospect Heights and Wheeling also would vote on the master plan.
Chicago Executive handles about 80,000 corporate, charter and light-aircraft flights annually as a reliever for O'Hare International Airport. That would not change if a lengthier runway were created, Louden said.
"Any facility expansion at the airport does not mean commercial service," he said. "Southwest, UPS, FedEx -- they're not coming to Chicago Executive Airport whether the (main) runway stays as is or it's expanded in the future. So, it's important to know that."
Chicago Executive officials and consultants stressed there are no guarantees anything in the new master plan will be built. The document was last updated about 30 years ago.