Suburbs deserve western terminal at O'Hare, tollway chairman says

Illinois Tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom pushed for a full-blown, not scaled-back, version of western access at O'Hare in a speech Monday to members of the City Club of Chicago.

"We want passengers coming from the west to have the same experience as passengers from the east," Schillerstrom said regarding a proposed makeover of O'Hare International Airport likely to be unveiled Wednesday.

Chicago intends to rebuild Terminal 2 and improve the other terminals by adding gates and concourses. But central to the suburbs is what will greet travelers once they enter a new western entrance that the tollway is constructing as it extends Route 390 east to the airport.

DuPage County leaders want a western terminal with baggage check-in, TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening, plus people mover to other terminals - but it's not clear what the city will deliver.

It should offer "seamless" airport access, said Schillerstrom, adding that he expects 30 percent to 40 percent of fliers to enter from the west once the road is built.

Details of the plan are expected to be released at a city council meeting Wednesday.

Eventually, Route 390 will link to a ring road around the western edge of O'Hare, dubbed I-490, that will extend south to I-294 in Franklin Park and north to I-90 near Des Plaines.

But one impediment is securing an agreement with Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads for property they own that's needed for the Route 390/I-490 project.

At one point in 2015, CP filed a lawsuit against the tollway, but federal regulators requested both sides go to mediation.

Negotiations with the railroads are continuing and a resolution could come soon, Schillerstrom said Monday.

The railroads "fill a very important part of the transportation network," he said. "I'm confident we'll get to an arrangement that allows them to have their operations function better and gets our road built."

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  Canadian National Railway lines lie near the continuing extension of Route 390 and the planned I-490 ring road on the western edge of O'Hare International Airport. Daniel White/, November 2017
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