March 4, 2018
Last week, the Chicago Media officially announced that Mayor Rahm Emanuel negotiated an $8.5 billion deal with the airlines to expand O’Hare’s terminals, adding new gates and concourses. (The deal was unofficially announced last October 2017 at a City Club of Chicago speech by Ginger Evans Commissioner of Aviation for the City of Chicago). Emmanuel announced that funding for construction would be offset by airline carrier fees and charges with the City Department of Aviation borrowing against the future airline fees in a typical public/private financing scheme that would not require taxpayer dollars (historically, a patently false supposition).
In order to prepare for the new terminal’s construction, the second 15/33 diagonal runway (west) will be decommissioned at the end of this March (approximately one year earlier than was originally proposed). The new terminal will be built directly on top of diagonal runway 15/33, making the future use of diagonal runway 15/33 impossible. Without the operation of the two 15/33 northwest to southeast diagonals, residents will have zero relief from jet noise impact (particularly overnight).
In reading all media accounts, you’d be under the impression that there was a public consensus regarding construction of the new terminals. With very rare exceptions, only industry executives and City Department of Aviation operatives were interviewed for the stories (particularly the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times). The accounts read like press releases from the Mayor’s Office. Not discussed was how the western municipalities were promised the 50-gate Western Access Terminal back in 2005 in return for their political commitment to O’Hare expansion. The Western Terminal was supposed to generate economic activity on the western side of the airport in the form of new hotels, restaurants, rental car businesses, etc. In other words, the added municipal revenue through an expanded tax base. With Emmanuel’s announcement last week, that opportunity for new development is now gone. The elected leaders in the western municipalities have nothing to show for their acceptance of the 2005 O’Hare Modernization Plan. In the end, they got punk’d.