O'Hare plan includes hope for western access

The suburbs and Chicago buried the hatchet in 2009 in a long-term feud over the future of O'Hare International Airport, resulting in Bensenville neighborhoods being replaced by new runways.

A new airline terminal on the west side of O'Hare was a key component of the deal and helped garner suburban support of the modernization project announced at that time. It was linked with a grand plan to build a new tollway around O'Hare to the west, connect it to the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (I-390) and leverage the new airport access as an economic driver for the western suburbs.

But funding got tight, plans changed, and the terminal proposal morphed into a west-side parking lot, perhaps with a bus to take passengers to existing O'Hare terminals. It looked like the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, recently completed as far east as Route 53, might never provide much access to O'Hare after all.

That's why we're happy that a massive O'Hare redevelopment program announced last week by the city of Chicago includes options for a new concourse on the airport's west side and an underground train that would connect it to the other terminals.

The west-side development isn't firmed up or funded - Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement focused on nine new gates at O'Hare's international Terminal 5 and redeveloping Terminal 2. But preliminary diagrams show the city is contemplating new concourses to the west once the market demands it and the airlines buy into it, Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke writes. Meanwhile, the Illinois tollway is forging ahead with the new Interstate 490 western bypass linking to I-90, I-390 and I-294, with construction set to start next year and be completed in 2025.

"They're moving economic activity closer to the western side. We will have a toll roadway outside their gates where thousands will drive by. ... It's going to happen," DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin told Pyke, saying he's collaborating with Emanuel and Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans on O'Hare plans.

It looks like a big step in the right direction. One thing is clear: suburban leaders like Cronin need to be part of planning at O'Hare. We're glad he's being heard.

The airport anchors the region's economy and also poses challenges like jet noise that affect us all. It's only good sense that everyone who has a stake in O'Hare's future also has a voice in it.

Chicago O'Hare airport plans include more gates, amenities

O'Hare gate expansions good news for western access, Cronin says

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