Deal could come this week on $8 billion O'Hare expansion

  • United Airlines planes line up at gates at O'Hare International Airport. A deal for a major airport expansion could come this week.

      United Airlines planes line up at gates at O'Hare International Airport. A deal for a major airport expansion could come this week. Daniel White | Staff Photographer, 2016

Updated 2/26/2018 7:56 AM

Years of negotiations could come to fruition this week with announcement of a massive O'Hare expansion deal between the city of Chicago and the major airlines, but it's unclear what role the suburbs' prized western access will play in the bargain.

An ordinance could be introduced at Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting that would lead to game-changers such as rebuilding Terminal 2 and new gates and concourses at O'Hare, an official said.


With leasing rights on gates for United and American airlines expiring this year, all parties have focused on a deal that would give the carriers security in an ultracompetitive environment and bring O'Hare needed improvements and perks for its other airlines.

One central feature the city already has announced is redeveloping Terminal 2 with a new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol center, TSA screening stations and international flights, which would give the airport two arrival and departure points for international travel. As part of the redo dubbed O'Hare 21, nine gates also are being added to the current International Terminal. The cost of the entire building program could reach $8 billion, officials said.

Other possibilities are one or two concourses and a new employee parking lot on the west side of the airport.

A priority for DuPage County has been the idea of a terminal for people entering O'Hare from the west once the ongoing extension of Route 390 east to the airport is complete. Once known as the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, Route 390's completion is part of a project that also includes a ring road extending along the west side of the airport connecting with I-90 in Des Plaines and I-294 in Franklin Park.

DuPage County officials have said they want more than a parking lot and a bus on the airport's west side, and have been given assurances of a building with ticketing and security and eventually a people-mover.

The changes come as Chicago switches to a parallel system of runways with a new one on the north airfield set to be commissioned in 2020. Unclear yet is whether the negotiations with the airlines will set a date for the extension of an existing parallel runway on the south airfield.

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

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