May Not Be Needed If Expansion Plans Shot Down
Earlier this month, the city of
Chicago signed a 20-year agreement under which the FAA will pay the
city $42.3 million to occupy the North Air Traffic Control Tower
now under construction as part of the O’Hare Modernization
Program. Mayor Richard Daley and US Senator Dick Durbin made the
announcement at a joint press conference.
The agreement will allow Chicago to recover money spent in
construction, and Daly's office says it comes in time to ensure the
tower can be up and running in time for the November christening of
O'Hare's new runway 9L/27R.
Chicago grew to become a major transportation center during the
heydays of the railroads and Great Lakes shipping, and Daly said
transportation remains a key to the city's future.
"O’Hare International Airport is the engine of the Chicago
area economy and our connection to the rest of the world,”
said the mayor at the press briefing. “O’Hare is the
key to securing Chicago’s future role as a transportation
center and a major force in the global economy."
Adding a federal perspective, Durbin noted, "This agreement is
good for the FAA, good for the City of Chicago and good for our
nation’s air travelers. We now have a state-of-the-art air
traffic control tower as part of a modernization project that will
help reduce delays and congestion while increasing safety and
While the agreement is a ray of sunshine in a 30-year storm of
controversy over expansion at O'Hare, the fight is not over. Of the
just-signed agreement, Elk Grove Village Mayor and O'Hare expansion
opponent Craig Johnson observes, "It's going to be a tower for
nothing if they don't complete the expansion and there's a good
chance they won't."
The second phase of the expansion plan would require relocation
not only of dozens of residents and businesses, but also
every grave in a 150-year-old church cemetery. The plan is expected
to draw protests, and has already been hit with one lawsuit.
The St. John's United Church of Christ claims the federal
government is violating its own federal Religious Freedom Act,
because the commitment of federal funds would bind the city of
Chicago to complete the expansion.