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Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation today clearing the way for the Chicago area’s third major airport.

Discussions of a third airport began back in the 1970s. At the time the FAA envisioned it would eventually be the largest in the world.

Today, Governor Quinn signed legislation giving the Illinois Department of Transportation the authority to move forward wth the much smaller, and still controversial, south suburban airport.

The Governor signed the bill this morning at Governors State University in University Park.

The FAA will still need to approve the master plan.  Governor Quinn has asked for that to be expedited.

When it is completed, the airport near Peotone is expected to cover 20,000 acres in Will County and bring some 25,000 jobs to the area — more than half of that once it is operational.

The state has already spent about $40 million on land acquisition.  Governor Quinn has allocated anoher $71 million in the 2014 state budget to complete land acquisition.

Just last year, then-Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. held a symbolic groundbreaking near Peotone, pushing the long-stalled project to move forward and touting its creation as a big economic boon for the area.

Protesters pushed back, saying it threatens the livelihood of farmers in the area.

Governor Quinn says it is crucial to the economy.

“When we have strong transportation, including an airport in the south suburbs that can serve both cargo and passengers, that is a key way of growing your economy and helping this particular region of our state of Illinois,” Quinn said today at the bill-signing ceremony.

Without Quinn’s support on this project it likely would not have survived, after being put on the back burner by the FAA long ago.

Historically the major airlines have spoken out against the plan, saying it would be a blow to O’Hare and its expansion project.

Mayor Emanuel will likely be happy because the legislation also contains authorization for construction of the new arena near McCormick Place for DePaul University basketball.