01/19/2013 01:42 pm ET

Midway Privatization Approved: FAA Grants 'OK' To Start Seeking Bids

City officials wasted no time seeking bids for a public-private partnership at Chicago Midway International Airport after getting Federal Aviation Administration approval to move ahead with privatization plans.

The Associated Press reports the FAA issued a two-sentence statement Friday saying Chicago "can take the next steps to select a private airport operator" after the agency accepted a preliminary application to privatize the city's second-largest airport.

The same day, the city posted a "request for qualifications" for private partners, with the Tribune reporting the city's RFQ cast a net for teams "interested in financing, operating, maintaining and improving the Southwest Side airport."

After former Mayor Daley's epic bungling of the city's parking meter privatization deal, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pledging transparency in hopes of assuaging the doubts of skeptical citizens. Emanuel appointed an advisory panel made up of current and former aldermen, the VP of an airport-related parking company, a leader of a civic organization focused on transit issues and others.

Emanuel also insisted a "Traveler's Bill of Rights" must be part of the final deal.

In effort to distance Emanuel's administration from the failed privatization deals of the past, the city's chief financial officer Lois Scott issued a few digs at the Daley administration's deals saying, "The city's process and approach will be thorough and open, in stark contrast to the lease deals of the past."

Crain's Chicago Business reports, per terms of the RFQ, any privatization deal would last 40 years, with proceeds earmarked for paying off Midway's $1.4 billion in outstanding debt left from the 1996 rebuilding, as well as unspecified "capital needs."

Furthermore, the private partner would have to share revenue with the city on an ongoing basis--rather than the lump-sum style deal from the parking meter fiasco. The Tribune reports the city also wants assurance from the operator that prices for parking, food and other amenities will be kept "reasonable."

Interested investors have until Feb. 22 to make a bid, and if the city takes the next step of seeking proposals, a privatization plan could be sent before City Council in the summer.

Midway is the nation's 26th busiest airport, according to the AP, with about 9 million passengers passing through annually.



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