O’Hare Airport renovation gets environmental green light

The metropolis of Chicago has cleared a hurdle in its plans to redevelop O’Hare International Airport as federal aviation officers decided the proposed overhaul of terminals wouldn’t have a “significant” adverse environmental impression, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced Monday.

Joined at O’Hare by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Lightfoot mentioned passing the environmental impression report was a “key milestone” towards town’s now $12.1 billion plan to carry a state-of-the-art international terminal, dozens of latest gates and several other further concourses to O’Hare.

“This approval was essential for us to move forward on our next big phase of modernizing this airport,” Lightfoot mentioned.

One of probably the most noteworthy points of the so-called O’Hare 21 project is tearing down Terminal 2 — the oldest terminal — and changing it with a brand new Global Terminal. In order to obtain any licenses or allow, the Federal Aviation Administration conducts an environmental evaluation that evaluates any dangers from the development proposal.

This FAA analysis has been in progress since 2018. The report additionally said that the plans ought to scale back taxi occasions, resulting in decreased emissions, and that the plans wouldn’t have an effect on historic elements of the terminal, in accordance with the Illinois Historic Preservation Office.

Lightfoot mentioned the primary section of development will contain constructing two satellite tv for pc concourses for Terminal 2′s present operations, together with Air Canada, United Airlines, JetBlue and previously Delta Air Lines, which relocated to Terminal 5 in October. According to the plans for the O’Hare 21 project, the satellite tv for pc concourses make sure the airport wouldn’t lose gate capability whereas Terminal 2 is being rebuilt.

Construction can then start for the Global Terminal, which is able to double the quantity of space in Terminal 2 and combine the worldwide and home operations of hub carriers United and American Airlines. According to a information launch from Lightfoot, the satellite tv for pc concourses are estimated to be accomplished in 2027 and 2028. The Global Terminal project has a goal completion of 2030.

In addition to rebuilding Terminal 2, O’Hare’s terminal space plan additionally features a $1.3 billion renovation of Terminal 5 to extend its gate capability by 25%. Terminal 5 was reserved for worldwide flights, however now homes home carriers Southwest and Delta.

Travelers walk through a busy Terminal 1 on Nov. 21, 2022, at O’Hare International Airport before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Terminal 5 is within the closing months of its enlargement, as seven new gates opened over the summer time with one other three on the horizon, mentioned Chicago Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee. Construction additionally has begun on a six-story parking storage at Terminal 5. Other points of the terminal space plan embody upgrading facilities and services and decreasing gate and taxiing wait occasions to enhance the passenger expertise, Lightfoot mentioned.

Both O’Hare and Midway ranked “below average” in passenger satisfaction in comparison with U.S. airports related in dimension, amid declines throughout airports in North America, in accordance with a research by J.D. Power launched in September. But among the many greatest airports within the nation, just one airport was ranked decrease than O’Hare, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport. In 2021, O’Hare was on the backside of the listing.

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The development plans for brand spanking new terminals will create greater than 26,000 jobs to be crammed by union staff, mentioned Lightfoot, who’s in search of union assist in her bid for reelection early subsequent year.

“This is about making sure that we remain competitive on a global stage, that we continue to build great jobs here so people can live a good life, and that starts with making sure that our friends in organized labor have the opportunity to participate in the building of this next phase,” Lightfoot mentioned.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during an announcement about the modernization project and building of the Global Terminal on Nov. 21, 2022, at O’Hare International Airport.

The O’Hare project has obtained a number of avenues of federal assist, together with funds from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure invoice. Buttigieg additionally mentioned that he would “not be surprised to see a lot of strong applications” from O’Hare for grant funding from the federal Airport Improvement Program.

The renovation at O’Hare was in 2018 set to value $8.5 billion. But the present capital program price ticket is roughly $12.1 billion, which accounts for up to date project estimates and escalated prices permitted below the 2018 settlement.

Buttigieg, with a recognized tender spot for O’Hare because it marks the site where he got engaged, appeared with Lightfoot as a part of a Monday go to to Chicago the place the previous mayor of South Bend, Indiana, additionally met with air site visitors controllers and staff. Buttigieg additionally was scheduled to go to the Chicago campus of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance for a city corridor with college students alongside Robert Isom, CEO of American Airlines, which lately introduced a partnership with AIM to handle fears of a future scarcity of airplane mechanics.

“We’re living in a time when folks understand more and more of the importance of our airports for supply chains, as well as for passenger travel,” Buttigieg mentioned. “And we’ve got to make sure both of those are running as efficiently as possible — that’s part of what this new terminal’s going to be part of.”

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