Chicago officials and airlines close to finalizing $8.5B O'Hare airport expansion
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and O'Hare International Airport airline carriers are close to reaching an $8.5 billion expansion deal that would increase airport space by more than 3 million square feet, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- The eight-year overhaul would include the demolition of a 55-year-old terminal in order to make way for a "Global Terminal" that would be able to accommodate large international aircraft and that would connect to two new satellite concourses via an underground pedestrian tunnel. Three existing terminals also would undergo renovations. The project would increase parking space for planes by 25% and add 35 new gates, along with the replacement of 40 existing gates.
- Chicago officials are working to negotiate higher fees and charges from airlines as their contracts near expiration. The Aviation Department would borrow against that revenue to fund construction.
Chicago's infrastructure has seen a champion in Emanuel and the city administration, particularly when it comes to O'Hare. That support can be largely attributed to the fact that big airports with international hubs, recent upgrades, modern amenities and easy access are all draws for big business.
Crews broke ground on a $649 million sixth runway for O'Hare in 2016, and officials have compared the resulting increased capacity to the equivalent of adding a third airport. The city and airport were also quick to point out that the new runway would create approximately 6,000 jobs and provide businesses with the chance at hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. The new runway is expected to be completed in 2020.
The city also is trying to reduce travel time between downtown and the airport to 20 minutes by building a high-speed express system. There are several teams bidding to complete the project as part of a public-private partnership (P3) that will finance, design, build, operate and maintain the system, but much of the attention is on Elon Musk and his new enterprise, The Boring Company.
The project is in the pre-design phase right now, but The Boring Company has made the shortlist of four bidders. Musk said his hyperloop concept would not play a part in the project because of the relatively short distance of the system, but he will most likely propose some version of the 130 mph skate system he has in mind for underground Los Angeles.
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