As Chicago residents are eagerly awaiting several high-profile public works projects to wrap this year, an extensive $6.6-billion plan to expand O'Hare International Airport moves forward. Despite opposition voiced from nearby property owners and others, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) has unveiled a revised copy of the city's original June 2001 proposal (ENR 7/9 p. 14), now pending general approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Although the changes call for added design features and shorter schedules, Daley still assures that none of the costs will be borne by taxpayers.

(Photo courtesy of: Office of Mayor Richard M. Daley)Click on photo to enlarge

On Dec. 23, Daley outlined the new "layout plan," which calls for 3,200 more long-term parking spaces, adjustments to runway placement, and a new Metra commuter-rail line with direct service to the airport's western terminal. Planners have also cut the project's original timeline from 15 to 11 years.

"It [the expansion] will vastly improve the efficiency of the nation's aviation system," says Daley, but opposing groups assert that O'Hare would grow "beyond its proper and appropriate size," says the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a local anti-expansion coalition. The SOC also claims that the project not relieve air traffic at O'Hare, which the FAA currently estimates at roughly 900 million takeoffs and landings each year.

In order to placate these factions, Daley has allocated $450 million for local home and school soundproofing, and he has announced plans to build a third regional airport in Peotone, a suburb 44 miles southwest of Chicago. As yet, the city has not released further details on the third airport.

The FAA's approval of the O'Hare project, expected within 18 months, will make way for federal assistance. Following FAA approval, city officials expect building to commence by the year-end 2004.

Last year, the FAA named O'Hare the nation's busiest airport for 2001. The Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport previously held the honor.