Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 23, 2024
Senators Durbin and Duckworth Back Mayor Johnson's O'Hare Terminal Overhaul in ChicagoSource: Lexington42, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Major players in Illinois' political and aviation circles seem to have reached a cruising altitude over the revamp of O'Hare International Airport's terminal after the recent turbulence. Mayor Brandon Johnson's recalibrated construction sequence for the airport's Global Terminal received a stamp of confidence from Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth on Monday.

The upgrade, part of an $8.5 billion capital improvement plan, includes the demolition and rebuilding of Terminal 2 and the addition of two new satellite concourses. Concerns that a later phase—specifically a satellite concourse set to increase gate space—could be postponed indefinitely due to the revamp caused some discomfort. "I think we're in a better place now," Durbin remarked during the ground-breaking ceremony of an unrelated $300 million Terminal 3 renovation, according to a Chicago Business interview. This broader project aims to solidify O'Hare's status as a top global aviation hub.

There had been friction initially when the city proposed altering the order of construction, a move intended to win the support of the airlines footing much of the bill. Durbin previously had been vocal about his concerns but now appears to back the city's latest plan, which includes a 25% capacity increase goal. "There's been an effort to increase the conversation between all the parties involved," Durbin said in comments obtained by the Chicago Business.

Senator Duckworth also expressed her vote of confidence, stating, "With the proposal from the city, this expansion is now back on budget." She assured further federal support if necessary, invoking past cooperation with federal authorities on similar projects. Duckworth's statement, acquired by the Chicago Tribune, highlighted the need for the expansion to markedly increase O'Hare's gate capacity.

While Monday's affirmations lean positive, the commitment from airlines, including United and American, is still under review. The initial pushback from these carriers over costs has been a sticking point, with this year's budgetary estimates for the terminal project inflating to $7.6 billion before rolling back down to the original $6.1 billion mark, as reported by the Chicago Business. O'Hare's overall upgrade has swelled to a hefty $18 billion, but the recent alignment among city leaders and federal officials offers renewed hopes that Chicago's economic powerhouse will get the wings it needs to soar into the future.