O'Hare Expansion Plans "Vital" To Nat'l Aerospace System
A new report released Tuesday by the Federal Aviation
Administration placed Chicago's Midway Airport on a 'watch list' of
US airports that are gradually losing the ability to add more
The airport is expected to reach capacity between 2015 and 2025
as it increases in popularity among travelers attracted to Midway's
ample choice of low-cost carriers, according to the Chicago
This imminent crisis means severe flight delays would be the
norm at MDW, as is now the case on many days at O'Hare
International Airport. O'Hare is already at the bottom of the list
of US Airports for less-than-punctual operations.
"Midway will benefit somewhat from the next-generation
air-traffic control system and all kinds of new avionics, but
clearly we know that a lot more cannot be done and some choices
will have to be made," a high-ranking FAA official in Washington
told the Tribune.
The FAA assessment did not come out and say the Chicago area
needed additional aviation capacity now, but, rather, predicted
what would be needed in the future. It concluded Chicago's effort
to expand O'Hare are "vital" to serving the needs of the national
airspace system over the next 20 years.
Chicago's plans to build new runways at O'Hare "may help offset
some of the additional activity forecast for Midway," the FAA
report said. "But additional solutions may be needed as well,
including a new airport that is now being considered" in Will
County near Peotone, the report said
Chicago's $15 billion O'Hare expansion -- which is currently
over-budget and behind schedule -- was assumed by the report to be
completed by 2013 on the original schedule. The expansion's first
new runway isn't even scheduled to open until late 2008 and
officials offer no completion timeline for the partially-paid
The FAA report also presumes Chicago Rockford International
Airport and Gary-Chicago International Airport would be the
secondary commercial passenger airports in the Chicago region, as
well as Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, over the next
several decades. But, there are no airlines currently providing
regular service to Gary, and Rockford only has a couple of flights
a day with a bit of charter service thrown in for good measure.
In 2006, MDW served an average of 51,694 passengers a day. This
is an increase from its 2000 numbers of 42,822 passengers, while
the number of daily takeoffs and landings remained stable during
that period at about 800 flights, according to the Chicago
Department of Aviation.
"By 2025, cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago and San Diego
are going to have to risk the lost revenue, lost business and lost
appeal that comes with chronic airport delays or they're going to
have to consider building new airports," US Transportation
Secretary Mary Peters said in Washington.
Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Phoenix also were
included in the list of cities that must begin planning for
increasing numbers of air travelers, Peters said.
As ANN reported,
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is also on that list.
Peters told community leaders in Atlanta they should strongly
consider a second airport and even put up $1 million for the