In a betrayal of Chicago promise to suburbs, western terminal disappears from O'Hare expansion plans

O’Hare Airport’s west suburban neighbors again are getting the shaft. Many of them gave up their fight against O’Hare Airport expansion with the promise of a new terminal that would be built on the airport’s west side. The western suburbs believed that the 50-gate terminal and new western access from the extended Elgin-O’Hare Expressway and a new bypass road would be economic development blessing.

Now the western terminal has quietly disappeared. As Greg Hinz reports in Crain’s Chicago Business:

The city is no longer pushing a western terminal, which was part of the O’Hare Modernization Program approved in 2005. United and American always opposed the new terminal, arguing that they’d pay a disproportionate share of the construction costs for a facility they wouldn’t get to use. “(It) did nothing for our current tenant airlines, which is why they correctly hated it,” [Ginger Evans, the city’s aviation commissioner] says.

Planned new Terminal 2 at O'Hare Airport (Crain's Chicago Business screen shot)

Planned new Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport (Crain’s Chicago Business screen shot)

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year announced the latest O’Hare expansion plan, called O’Hare 21, it sounded like the western terminal was no longer included. That’s because O’Hare 21 included a plan to rebuild Terminal 2 into a gigantic facility that would extend far into the airport’s layout, removing the need for the western terminal’s 50 new gates. That prompted me to check with the city’s aviation department, which told me that yes, the western terminal still was included in the plans. That’s what west suburban officials still believed according to news reports.

Again, the city has betrayed the suburbs with its bullshit.

Opponents of O’Hare expansion, including the Suburban O’Hare Commission and John Geils, commission chairman and president of Bensenville, had long warned that the western terminal never would happen. It made no sense. What airline would want to use a western terminal that was isolated from the central terminals on the east side? Well, the city replied, it would build an underground people mover connecting to two terminals. More deception: It would be altogether too expensive. And United and American airlines, the duopoly that controls O’Hare wouldn’t want the competition from new airlines using the western terminal. Nor would they use the western terminal.

Add this to the pile of steaming deceptions. Take the promised bypass road. It’s now tied up in a legal fight with the Canadian Pacific Railway that owns the massive Bensenville rail yards to the south and that argues that it would be too disruptive of its operations. Never mind that the public doesn’t know what more surprises await when the city finally gets around–in its own time–to disclose the exact route of the bypass highway.

O’Hare’s opponents have been proven to be right time and time again, on whether the expansion would reduce delays (it hasn’t), nearly double capacity (it hasn’t) and other baseless promises. How long will this continue?


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    It will continue as long as the voters continue to be snowed by the combine in ILLAnnoy

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