The Civic Committee believes that a strong and efficient aviation system is essential to the economic vitality and livability of any major city. Through our Aviation Task Force, chaired by Tyrone Fahner, we have been working to improve Chicago's aviation system for over 20 years. Our central mission has been the expansion of O'Hare International Airport — a world-class aviation hub and the economic engine of the Chicago region. The business community and the residents of the region benefit from and rely on a strong and efficient O'Hare. O'Hare contributes about $37 billion annually and over 400,000 jobs to the Chicago metropolitan economy. Expanding and modernizing the airport will generate as much as $18 billion in additional annual revenue and nearly 200,000 new jobs for Illinois. Improving O'Hare will also increase safety and reduce congestion at the airport, freeing up the national aviation system as a whole, and will allow for additional flights across the county and the world.
Although we believe that O'Hare is the anchor of the Chicago region's aviation system and advocate protecting and enhancing this valuable asset, we also believe building a third airport in Peotone may be a good idea to accommodate growth in point-to-point traffic.
UPDATE - O'Hare Modernization Program Approved by Illinois Legislature and Signed by Governor Blagojevich
The Civic Committee recently recorded a major success in its aviation agenda. The Illinois General Assembly approved legislation (HB 721) to facilitate the modernization of O'Hare International Airport during the 2003 spring session. The modernization program, originally proposed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in June of 2001, would add one new runway, reconfigure five additional runways, and add western roadway and terminal access at O'Hare over several phases. The O'Hare modernization bill, which was endorsed by the Civic Committee, received bi-partisan support in the Illinois legislature and passed both chambers by a wide-margin — the Illinois Senate approved the bill on Friday, May 30, 2003, by a vote of 40-19 and the House approved the bill on Saturday, May 31, 2003, by a vote of 84-31. Governor Blagojevich, a long time supporter of O'Hare expansion, signed the bill on August 6th.
The state's approval of the O'Hare modernization program is a momentous occasion for the Chicago region and Illinois. It is the most important development in the long-standing regional aviation debate since Mayor Daley and former Illinois Governor George Ryan reached their historic airport agreement in December of 2001. Since that time, the Civic Committee had been working to get legislative relief for the O'Hare modernization program in order to facilitate its implementation and to prevent it from being undermined in the future by local politics and frivolous lawsuits.
The Civic Committee spent most of 2002 working with U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, and Congressman Lipinski to get the Ryan-Daley airport agreement ratified in the U.S. Congress. However, U.S. Senator Fitzgerald's ongoing opposition to O'Hare expansion ultimately led to the focus being shifted to the Illinois General Assembly. The bill approved by the Illinois legislature endorses the Mayor's plan for reconfiguring O'Hare and provides it protection from local interference, paving the way for the implementation of what will almost certainly be the single most important economic development project to be undertaken in Illinois in our generation. The modernization program will still undergo the full scope of environmental, safety and other reviews by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Click here for more information on the recent history of O'Hare expansion and the Civic Committee's involvement in the project.