What changes are in store at O'Hare

  • Terminal 2 at O'Hare would be transformed from ho-hum to a vital hub at O'Hare if Chicago can secure funding.

      Terminal 2 at O'Hare would be transformed from ho-hum to a vital hub at O'Hare if Chicago can secure funding. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/23/2016 5:57 PM

A people-mover train connecting the east and west sides of O'Hare is coming eventually, but it won't be picking up passengers when the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway/Route 390 extension reaches the airport, Chicago officials said Friday.

The city is focused on expanding Terminal 5 and securing revenues to transform Terminal 2 into a central hub, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans told the Daily Herald. Then, attention will turn to new gates to the west and airfield transportation.


"That's the least developed part of the plan," Evans said. "You never build the farthest gates first. Right now, we're building our way out of this very complex situation we're in with these tightly constrained gates."

The complex situation involves an airport in transition from a diagonal system of runways with corresponding taxiways to parallel east/west ones.

The city has decommissioned one of its diagonal runways and in 2018 intends to retire a second in the way of a future Illinois toll road that will run along the airport's far west side.

The city is negotiating funding with American and United airlines for the redo of Terminal 2 with a new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol center, TSA screening stations and international flights.

The latest airport modernization dubbed O'Hare 21 was unveiled July 15.

Diagrams show an underground people-mover train extending from the main terminals out to proposed concourses on the west side that would be built based on market demand.

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Regarding the train, "at some point, it's real," Evans said. "We're certainly planning the infrastructure to support it.

"We're making provisions for it in the master plan."

Asked at an industry forum about the concourses, Evans said there are "lots of options."

"With that amount of real estate there's a ton of flexibility but the complicated part is getting out of that footprint affordably."

The people-mover will be a major step-up from a parking lot and bus that will likely await travelers when the tollway completes its eastern extension of Route 390 into O'Hare by 2019 or so.

In the meantime, "western access is happening now," Evans said referring to Route 390. The city is accelerating its construction of a new parallel runway on the north airfield to accommodate the road, she added.

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