Authorities in Chicago have reached an agreement which will allow the modernisation of O’Hare International Airport to proceed after a decade of delays.
The first stage of the $1.17 billion plan will see two new runways built at the airport, as well as a runway extension and a new air traffic control tower – all of which have been designed to reduce delays.
The plan has been on the drawing board for a decade, with the two largest carriers operating at the airport – United Airlines and American Airlines – originally enthusiastic and committed to picking up the majority of the costs.
Yet, a slowdown in traffic growth as the airline industry entered a period of uncertainty saw the carrier back away from their support, suing in January to stop the city from pushing forward without airline backing.
Now an agreement between United States transport secretary Ray LaHood, Chicago mayor Richard Daley, executives from United Airlines and American Airlines and US senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk will see the plan move forward.
With the agreement between the City of Chicago and American and United Airlines in place, work can begin on an additional south runway, as well as other airfield improvements needed to deal with increasing traffic at the airport.
“This is a landmark achievement that will benefit air travellers throughout the entire nation,” said LaHood.
“Making improvements to O’Hare will not only reduce flight delays and improve service for air passengers across America, it will ensure one of our busiest airports continues to thrive economically in the future.”
The construction schedule presented will accommodate the increasing activity without creating significant delays for passengers.
The parties have agreed to return to the table no later than March 1st, 2013 to negotiate the terms and timing of the remaining airfield components of the O’Hare Modernisation Program.
When completed, the program will provide needed airport runway capacity well into the next decade and beyond.
“O’Hare International Airport is the economic engine that drives the economy of our city, our region and our state and connects Chicago to the world,” said Daley.
“Unless we continue to modernise its infrastructure and operations, we will lose our competitive edge in the global economy.
“That is why I am so pleased that the City has reached agreement with American and United Airlines on a way to proceed immediately with the completion phase of the program.”