O’Hare Modernization Program

At the turn of the 21st century, O’Hare delays were getting more and more attention. Not only was this a problem for the Chicago region, but for tens of thousands of airline passengers connecting through Chicago on their way across the country; delays at O’Hare meant delays throughout the national flight network. Business leaders, looking both to strengthen Chicago’s status as a global city and to preserve an efficient air transportation system, were a major force in expanding O’Hare. Lobbying on multiple levels, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago was a major force driving the O’Hare expansion. Comprised of senior executives of the region’s largest businesses, the Civic Committee

"launched an aggressive campaign to build support for O’Hare expansion, reaching out to legislative leaders, transportation officials, airline executives, suburban mayors and community groups. We worked to mediate local opposition to O’Hare, help secure sound abatement policies and funding, put pressure on federal transportation officials, build support among business and labor and energize local media.[1]"

In June 2001, Mayor Daley, released his “O’Hare Modernization Plan” surprising many with its ambitious plan of building four new runways and reconfiguring O’Hare from a system of intersecting runways to a mostly east-west configuration, allowing for more takeoffs and landings at any given time.[2] In 2003, the Illinois State legislature passed the O’Hare Modernization bill with bi-partisan support. Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the legislation at a ceremony sponsored by the Civic Committee.[3]

This was only the beginning of the process. Further approval by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), reviews of environmental impact studies, needed federal and state funding for access roads, as well as the eminent domain taking or purchases of several hundred acres of land in Bensenville, including the houses and businesses on that land, also needed to be completed. The eminent domain takings proved to be among the most contentious and most public part of the O’Hare expansion process.

[1] Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. “What we’ve done” from Website. http://www.civiccommittee.org/initiatives/transportation Accessed March 12, 2016.

[2] Petchenik, 2014b.

[3] Civic Committee.