History of O’Hare Modernization and the Civic Committee’s Advocacy for the Project

  • 1989 – The Civic Committee formed its Aviation Task Force, chaired by Frank Considine, and launched a campaign to expand O’Hare.  The actions were spurred by a speech from United Airlines CEO Stephen Wolf to the Civic Committee at a regular breakfast meeting.  Wolf explained that O’Hare needed to be expanded to keep up with airports in Atlanta and Dallas, which were planning expansion projects.
  • 1992 – In February, the Illinois-Indiana Bi-state Policy Committee selected Mayor Daley’s choice of Lake Calumet for a third Chicago airport.  The estimated cost of the project was $10.8 billion.  In June, Governor Edgar, Mayor Daley and Indiana Governor Evan Bayh called for the legislature to create a Metropolitan Airport Authority that would govern O’Hare, Midway and Lake Calumet.  The Lake Calumet airport bill passed the House after failing three times, but the measure was defeated in the Senate.  Mayor Daley dropped the proposal soon thereafter.
  • 1995 – With Republicans in control of the Illinois House and Senate, Governor Edgar, Senate President Pate Phillips and House Speaker Lee Daniels advanced a legislative proposal to create a regional airport authority to control O’Hare and Midway (and any future third airport).  The Civic Committee voiced its opposition to the airport authority proposal out of concern over its potential impact on expansion. In response, the City of Chicago formed a regional airport authority with Gary, Indiana to oversee the respective airports in those cities.  Federal law authorized the creation of such bi-state authorities, and Illinois and Indiana law also had relevant enabling statutes.  The Chicago-Gary compact prevents the creation of any other regional authority to govern O’Hare and Midway.  The State of Illinois sued the City over the compact and lost.
  • January 1998 – Lester Crown becomes Chair of the Civic Committee’s Aviation Task Force.
  • February 4, 1998 – City of Chicago announces its O’Hare World Gateway Program to expand gate capacity and provide additional improvements within the Terminal Core Area.  
  • March 1999 – The Commercial Club of Chicago released the final report from its Metropolis project – “Chicago Metropolis 2020: Preparing Metropolitan Chicago for the 21st Century."  The comprehensive report contained recommendations in six major policy areas, including transportation.  The report called for the expansion of O’Hare’s capacity as a domestic hub and international gateway, stating that “construction of an additional runway should begin immediately or the existing system of intersecting runways should be reconfigured to provide for more runways in parallel.”
  • March 2000 – The Civic Committee commissioned Booz Allen to conduct a fresh study of Chicago’s aviation needs.  The study, released in March 2000, concluded that the highest value aviation policy is to expand O’Hare and build it into a major international hub.  Booz Allen estimated that adding one new runway would add $10 billion per year to the regional economy by 2015 and create an additional 110,000 jobs.  The study also concluded that building a third airport near Peotone, IL might be a good idea to accommodate projected increased in aviation traffic in the future, but that it would only be effective as a point-to-point airport. After the study’s release, the Civic Committee launched a grassroots campaign through its member companies to build support for expanding O’Hare.
  • May 14, 2001 – The Civic Committee published in major Chicago newspapers a full-page open letter to Governor Ryan, Mayor Daley and Illinois’ four legislative leaders urging expansion of O’Hare.
  • May 18, 2001 – A group of Civic Committee members met with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa to discuss his efforts to promote O’Hare expansion in Congress.  Senators Harkin and Grassley were interested in O’Hare because of its significant impact on the entire national aviation system.  The Senators introduced legislation to amend Federal aviation law to preempt certain state or local laws that prevent or obstruct construction of airport development projects at large or medium hub airports (at least 25 percent of the total annual boardings in the United States).  Illinois Congressman Bill Lipinski introduced similar language in the House.
  • May 21, 2001 – U.S. Senator Richard Durbin announces his support for O’Hare expansion.  He was the first prominent Illinois public official to support expansion.
  • June 15, 2001 – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a field hearing in Chicago on O’Hare expansion.  Sam Skinner, former Transportation Secretary and White House Chief of Staff, and a group of other Civic Committee members met with U.S. Senator John McCain prior to the meeting; Civic Committee Aviation Task Force Chair Lester Crown testified at the hearing.
  • June 29, 2001 – Mayor Daley released his comprehensive plan for modernizing O’Hare Airport.  Though many experts were expecting the Mayor to call for only one additional runway, his plan called for a comprehensive modernization of the airfield.  The plan called for the addition of new runways and a reconfiguration of several existing runways with the effect of redeveloping the airport with mostly parallel runways to significantly reduce delays and increase capacity for more flights.
  • July 11, 2001 – A delegation of Civic Committee members, including Sam Skinner, Lester Crown and Eden Martin, traveled to Washington, DC to meet with Transportation Secretary Mineta and select members of Congress to build support for O’Hare expansion.
  • July-August 2001 – U.S. Representative Bill Lipinski introduces legislation to preempt certain state laws that prevent or obstruct construction of airport development projects at critical national airports.  The Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on August 1.  Governor Ryan testified in opposition to the measure.  No further action was taken on this issue in the House or Senate.
  • August-September 2001 – Governor Ryan held public hearings in Bensenville, Naperville, Des Plaines, and Tinley Park on the Mayor’s plan and alternative aviation options, including Peotone and other regional airports.  Civic Committee members testified at three of the hearings.  Governor Ryan attended all four hearings, listening to testimony from hundreds of opponents and supporters of the various airport plans.
  • October 18, 2001 –  Governor Ryan released his airport proposal, which called for expanding O’Hare based on Mayor Daley’s plan, building a third airport in Peotone and preserving Meigs Field.
  • December 5, 2001 – Mayor Daley and Governor Ryan reached an agreement on a compromise airport plan.  The agreement called for expansion/reconfiguration of O’Hare Airport as proposed by Mayor Daley, additional funding for O’Hare noise mitigation, a new airport in Peotone and an extension of the life of Meigs field through 2026, though Meigs could be closed anytime after Jan. 1, 2006 by a vote of the Illinois General Assembly.  The Mayor and Governor also called for immediate Congressional approval of the agreement.
  • December 7, 2001 – Senator Durbin attempted to attach legislative language containing the terms of the agreement to the Defense Appropriations bill, but Senator Fitzgerald filibustered and Durbin withdrew the language. Senator Durbin and Representative Lipinski each introduced stand-alone legislation (S. 1786 and H.R. 3479 respectively) to ratify on the federal level the terms of the airport agreement between the Governor and Mayor.
  • March 6, 2002 – The Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on Representative Lipinski’s legislation to ratify the aviation agreement between Governor Ryan and Mayor Daley.  Both the Governor and Mayor testified at the hearing.
  • March 21, 2002 – The Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing on Senator Durbin’s legislation to ratify the agreement between the Governor and Mayor.  Civic Committee member Sam Skinner testified at the hearing.  (Senator Durbin had made a few changes to his legislation based on comments from the House hearings and had reintroduced his bill as S. 2039 before the hearing.)
  • March 26, 2002 – A group of Civic Committee members met with Senator Fitzgerald to discuss his long-standing opposition to O’Hare expansion.  This meeting was one in a long series of contacts about O’Hare between the Senator and members of the business community during his tenure in the Senate.
  • April 18, 2002 – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved Senator Durbin’s bill on O’Hare expansion (vote was 19-4.)
  • May-July 2002 – The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation (on the second attempt) ratifying the Daley-Ryan agreement on July 23rd (343 yeas to 87 nays).  In the U.S. Senate, substantial progress was made in building national support for O’Hare expansion as more than 60 Senators committed to support the legislation.  However, Senator Fitzgerald’s threat to filibuster the legislation ultimately forced supporters to move the pursuit of legislative relief for O’Hare expansion to Springfield.
  • June-September 2002 – In June, the FAA official approved the O’Hare World Gateway Program, authorizing the implementation of the project.  However, only two months later, Chicago and the airlines at O’Hare agreed to suspend work on World Gateway in light of changed conditions in the industry and the economy.
  • January 14, 2003 – The DuPage County Board under the leadership of Chairman Robert Schillerstrom reversed years of opposition to O’Hare expansion by voting 15-2 to support Mayor Daley’s modernization plan.
  • May 30, 2003 – The Illinois General Assembly approved O’Hare modernization legislation in May 2003 with broad bi-partisan and geographical support – The Illinois Senate approved the bill 40-19 (29 Democrats and 11 Republicans voted yes).  The House approved the bill 84-31 (56 Democrats and 31 Republicans voted yes).
  • August 6, 2003 – Governor Blagojevich signed the O’Hare modernization legislation at an event sponsored by the Civic Committee.
  • October 14, 2003 – The City of Chicago submitted its final O’Hare modernization plan to the FAA (officially referred to as an Airport Layout Plan) for official review.
  • February 6, 2004 – Chicago submitted to the FAA its Master Plan for O’Hare Airport for the next 20 years, which includes the modernization project, general capital improvements and other projects, including World Gateway.  The Master Plan reflects projects that could be developed at the Airport in order to provide the Department of Aviation with the flexibility to respond to future demand.
  • March 10, 2004 – A group of Civic Committee members met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta in Chicago to discuss flight reductions at O’Hare and the modernization project.  Secretary Mineta spoke at a Commercial Club of Chicago luncheon later that day.  At the meeting, Civic Committee members addressed the urgency of O’Hare expansion and the need for an expedited FAA review process for the project.
  • April 15, 2004 – FAA sent a letter to Chicago outlining a tentative schedule for completing the agency’s review of the O’Hare modernization plan – with a target completion date and Record of Decision in September 2005.
  • October 13, 2004 – U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Ken Meade visited Chicago.  Meade had been asked by Senator Fitzgerald to investigate the FAA’s review of O’Hare modernization, which Fitzgerald alleged had been tainted by a lack of due process and proper procedure.  The Civic Committee hosted a meeting with Inspector General Meade and Mayor Richard Daley to discuss the modernization project.  Several Civic Committee members attended the meeting along with other city officials, business leaders, labor representatives and suburban mayors.  The group conveyed to the Inspector General the breadth and depth of support for O’Hare modernization throughout the entire Chicago region.
  • January-February 2005 –FAA releases its Draft EIS on January 13, 2005 – one month ahead of schedule.  They agency then held three hearings (February 22-24) in the Chicago area.  Eden Martin testified on behalf of the Civic Committee at the February 22nd hearing in Elk Grove Village.  Several other Civic Committee members’ companies submitted testimony, including Illinois Tool Works and Walgreens.
  • July 1, 2005 – Tyrone C. Fahner becomes Chair of the Civic Committee’s Aviation Task Force.
  • July 27, 2005 – FAA releases the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the O’Hare Modernization Program.  The FAA study concluded that Chicago’s OMP is the preferred alternative for improving aviation capacity in the region because it would provide the greatest reduction in flight delays, the most cost savings for passengers and airlines and the least additional impact on noise, air and water pollution.  The FAA study also concluded that the City’s cost estimates for OMP are reasonable and that sufficient funds should be available to complete the project.  The FAA’s favorable environmental review served as a precursor to the FAA’s final Record of Decision approving the expansion project.
  • August 11, 2005 – President Bush traveled to Illinois to sign a six year, $286 billion federal  highway and transit bill.  The bill includes approximately $140 million earmarked for western access projects at O’Hare.
  • September 30, 2005 – Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announces its final Record of Decision on O’Hare Modernization.  The FAA approved the modernization project and granted authority to the City of Chicago to begin construction on the project.
  • September 2008 – Completion of Runway 10/28 extension; this was the first runway infrastructure project completed by the OMP.  The 3,000 foot extension provides O’Hare with a 13,000-foot runway in the region’s predominant east-west wind direction.  It also provides the OMP and airport stakeholders with operational flexibility during the remainder of construction.
  • November 20, 2008 – Commissioning of new Runway 9L/27R and the state-of-the-art North Air Traffic Control Tower which was an important first step in the completion of the O’Hare Modernization Program.
  • 2009 – In 2009, the FAA approved the City’s $182 million Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) application.  PFC funding will go for the development of construction-ready design drawings for the remaining airfield elements of the OMP, as well as related enabling projects.
  • March 24, 2010 – the CDA announced the start of demolition of the properties acquired by the City of Chicago for the OMP.  The completion of demolition will allow the OMP to relocate the Union Pacific Railroad, Irving Park Road and the Bensenville Ditch as well as the installation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) navigational systems.  These enabling projects are critical to the completion of Phase I of the OMP, which include the construction of new Runway 10C/28C, the relocation of the FedEx Sort Facility and the construction of two new railroad bridges.
  • April 6, 2010 – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a letter of intent to provide $410 million in funding for the Completion Phase of the OMP.  The funding will be used for construction of three OMP Completion Phase runway projects:  new runway 9C/27C, new runway 10R/28L and the extension of runway 9R/27L.
  • April 29, 2010 – The Civic Committee filed an amicus brief prepared by Sidley Austin LLP in the 2nd District Appellate Court in the City of Chicago v. St. John’s (aka cemetery case).
  • November 24, 2010 – The FAA approved the City’s $700.4 million Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) application.  This PFC Funding will support the construction of Completion Phase projects.  In addition, a Western Terminal Planning Study was completed and is being evaluated by the OMP.  Two major airlines, United and American, have yet to agree on Phase II of the project.
  • November 29, 2010 – The OMP acquired 604 of the 605 parcels needed in the Village of Bensenville for the program.
  • December 2010 – The Runway 10C/28C West project was completed.  This project includes the west end of the runway in addition to several connecting taxiways and the ramp infrastructure for the future FedEx Cargo Facility.  The facilities include a 300,000 sf Sort Building, a 24,000 sf World Service Center Administration Building, a 14,000 sf Aircraft Maintenance Building and a 2,500 sf pedestrian bridge.
  • January 2011 – The City acquired ownership of the St. Johannes Cemetery and began disinterments in February.
  • March 14, 2011 – The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) reached an agreement with the airline partners that divided the OMP Completion Phase runway projects into two phases – Phase 2A and 2B.  Phase 2A will include:
  • An additional runway on the south airfield (R/W 10R-28L to be commissioned 4th Quarter 2015)
    • Construction of a South Air Traffic Control Tower (to be commissioned 4th Quarter 2015)
    • Various North Airfield Enabling Projects; and
    • OMP portions of the ATS Extension and new Economy Parking Structure.
  • All parties will return to the table in March 2013 to negotiate the terms and timing of Completion Phase 2B airfield components which include:
    • New runway 9C-27C on the north airfield
    • Extension to existing Runway 9R-27L and
    • Taxiway Lima Lima
  • July 2011 – Construction on the remaining Runway 10C-28C project began.  Commissioning date is scheduled for December 2013.
  • September 12, 2011 – Fed Ex relocated to their new facility.
  • December 15, 2011 – Construction of the United Cargo aircraft parking positions was substantially complete.
  • March 2012 – United Cargo relocated to their new facility.
  • August 2, 2012 – The CDS announced the opening of a new Signature Flight Support Terminal at O’Hare International Airport.  The facility replaces the existing fixed-base operator (FBO) facility, which needed to be relocated as part of O’Hare’s ongoing airfield reconfiguration under the OMP.
  • December 2012 – Project work is underway on the Taxiway WK, Storm Sewer System E, Taxiway WQ, Runway 9C-27C northwest and the Runway 10R East utility projects.