Chicago Nears Finalization of $8.5 Billion Expansion of O’Hare International Airport

Feb 26, 2018

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Chicago’s largest airport could soon be getting a facelift. The city’s mayor Rahm Emanuel and the airlines are reportedly in the final stages of negotiating an $8.5 billion deal to expand Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the deal would include a new state-of-the-art “Global Terminal,” featuring new gates and additional concourses. In all, the eight-year plan would catapult ORD to a more modern airport by reducing gridlock and delays, along with accommodating more flights — both international and domestic.

The potential deal comes near the end of a 35-year lease with the airlines, which is set to expire in May. Emanuel is expected to leverage the expiration of that deal to get higher fees from airlines, which would help to finance the project. The $8.5 billion project would be paid for with future airline fees, and therefore would not require taxpayer dollars.

Details show that the 55-year-old Terminal 2 would be torn down to make way for the new “Global Terminal.” In addition, Terminals 1, 3 and 5 would be renovated, with two new satellite concourses opening to the west of existing terminals, connected to the new “Global Terminal” by an underground pedestrian tunnel. While the airport currently houses 185 gates, the new ORD would feature a total of 220.

In all, the deal would add 72% more terminal space — from 4.3 million square feet to 7.4 million — and allow for six east-west runways and two diagonal runways. The project is expected to be completed over the next eight years. While nothing has yet been confirmed by the city, the proposal is set to be discussed at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Based on TPG‘s 2016 look at the best and worst airports in the US, ORD came in as the fourth worst — behind LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Newark (EWR).

Featured image by Anadolu Agency / Getty Images.

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