Chicago City Council approves $8.5B O'Hare airport expansion
- The Chicago City Council has approved a plan for an $8.5 billion expansion of O'Hare International Airport, according to Reuters.
- The deal — which involves the city and the major carriers that provide service at O'Hare including United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines — will see the addition of terminal space and additional gates. An earlier disagreement between United and American over the allocation of the new gates threatened to delay the council's authorization, but the two carriers were able to resolve their differences after the city agreed to ramp up construction of three common-use gates.
- The city has also approved $4 billion in bonds to pay for upfront construction costs and to refund outstanding bonds from other city deals.
The planned construction work at O'Hare includes the renovation of three existing terminals, a 25% increase in parking space for planes, 35 new additional gates and the replacement of 40 existing gates. The project also includes building a "Global Terminal," which will replace a 55-year-old terminal in order to make way for larger, international aircraft. When work is complete, O'Hare's airport space will have increased by 3 million square feet.
According to earlier reports, the city will provide the initial funds to start construction but will be reimbursed by the revenue from increased airline fees negotiated as part of carrier renewals.
When the expansion is finished, passengers traveling between O'Hare and downtown might have a service alternative — an express train that will take only 20 minutes per trip. The city recently narrowed the field of prospective bidders for the project down to two, including Tesla founder Elon Musk's The Boring Company and O'Hare Xpress LLC, which is made up of infrastructure heavy hitters including Meridiam, Mott Macdonald, JLC Infrastructure, Antarctica Capital and First Transit.
The bidders must submit their detailed proposals by May 18, and the winner will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the system. Total costs for the rail line have been estimated as high as $3 billion, although details, even as to whether the system will be underground or above ground, won't be available until after The Boring Company and O'Hare Express submit their bids.
It is widely expected that The Boring Company will use Musk's idea of a high-speed sled system, similar to one that he has proposed for Los Angeles, that will be able to ferry buses or other commuter vehicles between the airport and downtown.
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