Chicago plans monumental O'Hare redo, and the FAA wants your thoughts on it
The Federal Aviation Administration is scrutinizing Chicago's monumental plan to build a new global terminal at O'Hare International Airport, punch a hole in its west side and add two new concourses.
The review will assess whether the proposal is likely to significantly affect the environment -- and you have an opportunity to chime in. Comments from the public are being accepted now through July 9.
The result could trigger a more detailed environmental impact statement or the FAA could conclude there's no significant issues.
Known as the Airport Terminal Project, its blockbuster feature is a $2.2 billion Global Terminal that will accommodate domestic and international airlines with customs and immigration services. The billowy, Y-shaped design, created by a team led by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, incorporates glass, wood and steel and will be twice the size of Terminal 2, which it's replacing.
A tunnel will connect the Global Terminal to two concourses on the west side of the airport, intended to be double the size of existing ones and able to fit wide- bodied planes. Overall, the construction should add 22 gates to O'Hare with the airport's capacity expected to increase by 25% to 100 million passengers by 2026.
Also included are two new hotels, one at Terminal 5 and a second to be built as a multiuse complex off Mannheim Road.
The least glamorous element is also the most consequential one to many suburbs. The city proposes to open an entrance to O'Hare's west side that connects with the I-490 and Route 390 toll roads under construction.
This project will include an eight-level parking structure for employees and an employee screening facility with transport to terminals.
It's hoped this will be the thin edge of the wedge that leads to a long-desired western terminal at O'Hare.
"While this plan does not include a full service western terminal that we have long advocated for, we find promise in its inclusion of the initial stages of western access," Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said.
"Today, 65% of all traffic into O'Hare comes from west of the airport, and punching the proverbial 'hole in the fence' brings opportunity for a more efficient, more accessible O'Hare."
Village officials have met with Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee about "the importance of full western access and she has relayed her commitment to the concept," Summers said.
For now, "the city is focused on progressing with the planning, design, and implementation of these critical infrastructure projects," CDA Deputy Commissioner for Communications Christine Carrino said.
Medinah resident Dan Dwyer, a member of the Fair Allocation to Runways group, said "the O'Hare Terminal Project is a bit of a challenge to directly correlate to noise in the short-term. Gate expansion would be the most significant impact (on noise) with increased capacity, but only if there's enough demand."
Another aspect of the city's plan includes permanently approving an "offset approach" to Runway 10-Right/28-Left, the airport's southernmost parallel runway. That's necessary because there's a shorter distance -- just 3,100 feet -- between 10R/28L and Runway 10-Center/28-Center to the north than the required space of 4,300 feet.
As a result, pilots landing on 10R/28L need to approach from a slight angle to the south, a procedure already in place.
Comments can be submitted through the FAA's website at faa.gov, by phone at (847) 294-7354 or by mail to Amy Hanson, FAA, 2300 E. Devon Ave., Room 320, Des Plaines IL 60018.
You should know
Heading into Chicago this summer? The Chicago Transit Authority is offering deals on rides that include a one-day pass at $5 instead of $10, a three-day pass at $15 instead of $20, and a seven-day pass at $20, discounted from $28.
Be prepared for angst on Route 60 between routes 120 and 176 near Mundelein this summer as IDOT crews patch and resurface the road. Daytime lane closures are on the menu.