Long wait for western terminal disappointing, Bensenville says

To correct an earlier version, a 30-year plan for a passenger center with other improvements on the west airfield of O'Hare International Airport would cost $1.5 billion.

Three decades is too long to wait for a western O'Hare terminal, Bensenville leaders said Friday as Chicago Department of Aviation leaders updated the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission on a $8.5 billion plan to transform the airport.

Along with rebuilding Terminal 2 to handle international flights, the O'Hare 21 project will initially include parking and a screening facility for airport employees entering from the west once the Illinois tollway extends Route 390 to O'Hare in 2024.

"I'll be approaching retirement" by the time a proposed western terminal is built, Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said. "It's a disappointment to us all."

Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said an earlier O'Hare plan promising a western terminal sooner had been "dead" for years because American and United Airlines didn't support it.

"It was not financially viable," Evans said. The latest approach "gives (the city) a path to do what was committed to and make it a reality."

As air traffic grows, the city would add concourses on the west airfield and eventually a passenger center with screening, baggage drop-off and a people-mover taking fliers to concourses and other terminals. That 30-year plan would cost $1.5 billion.

Summers noted that suburbs accepted noise from new runways on the south airfield because of expectations of an economic boom from a western terminal. A building that serves only employees "is not true western access."

Evans said: "I do believe that those economic benefits have already started and will continue," citing a $1 billion technology park to be built in Elk Grove Village.

It's expected American Airlines would occupy two proposed concourses closest to the western facility, Evans said, although she clarified that nothing was finalized.

Noise commission Chairwoman Arlene Juracek said the airport redo, which includes new gates, would help reduce delays and a domino effect that pushes flights into the evening and night.

Recent data from the Department of Aviation showed noise complaints dropped sharply in February to 33,499 compared to 252,878 in January.

The decrease is attributable to a "captcha" feature on the city's online complaint website where people click a box to show they're not a robot.

It was installed because multiple noise complaints from a bot were inflating the data and overloading the city's 311 program, officials said.

Fair Allocation in Runways members worried the tactic would discourage people from reporting noise, and the group's Al Rapp suggested "we look toward an independent noise complaint system that's not manipulated in any way."

Also Friday, officials said the FAA is reviewing an noise commission overnight runway rotation plan intended to distribute jet noise. The review should finish in spring 2019 and trigger another rotation.

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Plans for western O'Hare access show people-mover, screening - but when?

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