Federal officials have cleared the way for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to begin construction on a $7.1-billion terminal replacement and expansion, plus other projects.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration announced the approval Nov. 21 after its environmental review found “no significant impact” associated with the proposed projects. Chicago Dept. of Aviation officials say construction of two satellite concourses will begin in the spring of 2023.

Those new concourses, along with a rebuilt terminal 2 the airport is calling the O’Hare Global Terminal, are the “centerpieces” of the $12.1-billion O’Hare 21 capital improvement plan, Jamie Rhee, CDA commissioner, said in a statement. The new 2.2.-million-sq-ft terminal would be more than twice the size of the current terminal 2. It would integrate domestic airlines with their international partners, with the aim of enhancing connectivity for passengers and their baggage, according to CDA. The satellite terminals would add a combined 1.3 million sq ft. The plan would “completely transform the O'Hare experience for the traveler of tomorrow,” Rhee added.

Officials expect to finish the first satellite concourse in 2027 and the second in 2028. The phased demolition of terminal 2 is scheduled to start in 2026 and construction of the new terminal would complete in 2030. A tunnel connecting the new terminal and concourses would be built from 2024 to 2030.

Chicago officials selected Studio ORD as the designer of the Global Terminal in 2019. Studio Ord is a joint venture led by Jeanne Gang of lead design architect Studio Gang along with executive architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz, aviation architect Corgan, lead engineer Milhouse Engineering & Construction Inc. and associate architect STLarchitects. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is designer of the satellite concourses, with lead civil engineer HNTB.

The FAA also approved additional improvements to terminal 5. O’Hare is in the midst of an $1.3-billion expansion and modernization of the terminal that is scheduled to complete next year. The work is divided between three construction managers at-risk. Austin Power Partners, a joint venture of Austin Commercial, Power Construction and Ujamaa Construction, is leading the terminal building expansion. JV team Turner Paschen Aviation Partners has been heading work on relocation of taxiways and utilities, while AECOM Hunt Clayco Bowa has led work on parts of the project including a parking garage and runway rehabilitation. The newly approved projects include roadway improvements, a curbside expansion and phase 2 of the parking garage.

The approval also included construction of two hotels, various runway and taxiway improvements and construction of employee support facilities. The airport also plans to relocate an aircraft rescue and firefighting station and expand a commercial vehicle holding area.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other local officials at O’Hare Nov. 21 to announce the FAA’s approval. Buttigieg said Chicago’s transportation infrastructure “is what makes this city an economic powerhouse.”

“Now, as we prepare to break ground on O’Hare’s newest terminal, Chicago and this entire region will be positioned to grow and create good-paying jobs through the benefits of first-rate infrastructure, beginning with the construction project itself,” he said.