Work to begin on US$7bn O’Hare International development plan following FAA approval

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The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) has gained FAA approval for its proposed Terminal Area Plan (TAP) at O’Hare International Airport, Illinois, after an environmental review found there would be “no significant impact” from the development.

The approval paves the way for the construction of two new satellite concourses and the O’Hare Global Terminal that will replace Terminal 2. Construction will begin on the satellite concourses and related airfield work in spring 2023. The current construction timeline calls for the first satellite concourse to be completed in 2027 and the second satellite concourse to reach completion in 2028.

Demolition of Terminal 2, the airport’s oldest passenger facility, will occur in phases. The work is scheduled to begin in 2026, with a target completion date of 2030 for construction of the O’Hare Global Terminal. Construction of a large tunnel connecting passengers, baggage and utilities between the O’Hare Global Terminal and the satellite concourses is anticipated to begin in 2024 with a construction completion date of 2030.

Chicago Mayor Lori E Lightfoot said, “O’Hare is the lifeblood of Chicago’s economy, directly employing tens of thousands of Illinois residents and bringing more than 70 million passengers to and through our city each year. The next phase of work will expand O’Hare’s capacity to serve travelers and improve the customer experience, transforming it into one of the greatest airports of the 21st century.”

Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) said, “Chicago’s transportation infrastructure is what makes this city an economic powerhouse of global importance. Now, as we prepare to break ground on O’Hare’s newest terminal, Chicago and this entire region will be positioned to grow and create good-paying jobs through the benefits of first-rate infrastructure, beginning with the construction project itself.”

The FAA review process, which began in 2018, consisted of a complex technical review of the environmental impact of the TAP. This review, which is common for large airport capital projects, was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Commissioner Jamie L Rhee of the CDA, which owns and operates both O’Hare and Midway International Airports, said, “Today’s news from the FAA gives us a clear path forward to start construction on the TAP which includes satellite concourses 1 and 2 and the O’Hare Global Terminal, the centerpieces of the capital improvement program we call O’Hare 21. I thank the FAA for its comprehensive review of the proposed plan as we work to completely transform the O’Hare experience for the traveler of tomorrow.”

The TAP is a critical component of the O’Hare 21 plan, an ongoing investment in the airport’s terminals that will further support the breadth of air service that make O’Hare one of the world’s busiest airports.

The TAP was agreed to as a part of the 2018 O’Hare Airline Use and Lease Agreement, which approved more than US$8.5bn of new capital funding in 2018 dollars. The agreement allows for increased project costs to account for the timing of the development. The current capital program for O’Hare is approximately US$12.1bn, which accounts for current project estimates, escalated costs permitted under the 2018 agreement, as well as capital investments agreed to both since and prior to the 2018 agreement. The total budget for the TAP is currently estimated to be US$7.1bn, or 59% of the overall capital plan.

When completed, the satellite concourses will provide approximately 1,300,000ft2 of gate and amenity space and dramatically expand the airport’s flexibility to accommodate both narrow and wide-body aircraft, which allows for a more efficient use of the terminal facilities. Opening the satellite facilities first will allow O’Hare to maintain gate capacity when existing gates are withdrawn from service to allow construction on the O’Hare Global Terminal to begin later this decade.

Upon its opening, the O’Hare Global Terminal will be one of the most significant terminal developments in America, more than doubling the space of the existing Terminal 2 and allowing for the integration of international and domestic operations for the airport’s two hub carriers.

Key capital investments at O’Hare continued to move forward while the TAP’s environmental review was underway. Projects recently completed include:

  • In October 2022, Delta Air Lines, the airport’s third largest carrier, moved its operations into newly renovated gates M2 to M11 in the western concourse of Terminal 5.
  • In September 2022, construction crews completed a US$48.8m utility and pavement repair project in the arrival lanes of O’Hare’s Main Terminals, installing new ADA-compliant crosswalks and a new 12in water main with new fire hydrants that will be critical in the event of an emergency at the new O’Hare facilities.
  • In August 2022, construction wrapped on the 9,300-space Main Parking Garage, a US$25.5m project that included pavement repairs and structural support work, which will prolong the life of the 49-year-old parking ramp another 15 years.
  • In June 2022, the CDA broke ground on a new, six-story parking garage at Terminal 5, which will more than double the amount of available parking on site and offer a mix of long-term and short-term parking options, like those found in the Main Parking Garage.
  • Also in June 2022, the CDA reopened seven pedestrian tunnels connecting the Main Terminals to the parking garage and the CTA Blue Line, using vibrant new designs that provide a world-class welcome to visitors and residents as part of a US$35.5m project.
  • In April 2022, the Airport Transit System (ATS) re-launched around-the-clock service, offering travelers a fully automated, convenient ride between O’Hare’s four terminals and the Multi-Modal Facility (MMF) every three to five minutes.
  • In 2021, the CDA completed a 16-year, US$6bn investment in the O’Hare airfield with the opening of the extension of Runway 9R-27L.

Additional upgrades continue to open in phases as part of a US$1.3bn renovation of Terminal 5. The CDA is currently finalizing plans for a grand opening of Terminal 5’s new eastern extension early next year, where seven new gates have already opened since this summer.

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, web editor

Dan originally joined Passenger Terminal World in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest aviation news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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