in the News
Source: Pioneer Press Newspapers
Date: January 20, 2005
Digital Chicago Inc.
By Patrick Corcoran,
analysis: O'Hare growth and neighbors can co-exist
Airport's proposed expansion would not affect the quality of life of thousands
of homeowners and businesses near the airport, according to a new federal study.
opponents were lining up this week to rebut the Federal Aviation
Administration's environmental impact study, which was released Jan. 13.
The FAA's new
5,000-page report on the $15 billion O'Hare Modernization Project says airport
construction, increased flight volume and the airport's physical incursion into
Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines and Bensenville will not lead to excessive noise
and air pollution in those communities.
director of Public Affairs for the O'Hare Modernization Project, said Chicago
officials see this report as one more step toward the FAA's final approval,
which is expected by September.
"Thus far, we
have not seen anything that leads us to believe the project will be of great
impact on the region. Of course, it is a large airport, but we've looked for
ways to mitigate the environmental impact and act as good neighbors," he
The study does not
give a green light to the expansion proposal, said FAA Great Lakes Division
spokesman Tony Molinaro.
whatsoever has been made (by the FAA) regarding the O'Hare Modernization
Project. The report is a just an analysis of the city's proposal and other
alternatives. It analyzes all the environmental data and other issues
surrounding the project so the public can take a look," he said.
Elk Grove Mayor Craig
Johnson, an outspoken opponent of airport expansion, said the report downplays
the impact on residents. In addition to losing 55 businesses in Elk Grove, the
proposal cuts wide swaths through Bensenville and Des Plaines, he said. Johnson
believes Chicago's announced plans represent a fraction of the actual number of
properties needed to complete the airport's expansion.
The proposal also
fails to address how airport planners intend to move two protected cemeteries
that border the airport property. According to the report, St. Johannes
Cemetery, which covers 5 acres, and the much smaller Rest Haven Cemetery, both
located in Bensenville, are currently used by churches in Bensenville and
Overall, Johnson says,
the FAA's report does not help expansion proponents' cause.
"It will fall
apart when they (Chicago officials) are forced to show that expansion will be
worth the costs, which will finally be revealed by the (upcoming) cost/benefit
analysis. They have also yet to explain how they will finance the project, which
currently relies on the airlines, which have no money to spare," he said.
He said the Suburban
O'Hare Commission, which consists primarily of Elk Grove Village and
Bensenville, is prepared to file federal lawsuits against the city and FAA, as
it has in the past, to block the project from going forward.
Highlights of the
environmental impact study include:
expansion will generate jet noise that would affect a total of 8,502 homes, or
2,000 more than currently affected. However, the report points out that since
1984, the number of homes affected by jet noise has dropped by 91 percent due to
new jet engines and federal noise-reduction mandates.
If expanded, the
airport would handle about 1.2 million flights by 2018 with average delays
of only six minutes. In 2003, O'Hare handled 931,422 flights, and about 5
percent experienced delays of more than 15 minutes.
If O'Hare is
expanded, the total number of passengers served would jump from 31.7 million
in 2002 to 50.3 million in 2018.
will create additional pollution, the finished project would not create
enough toxins to violate federal clean air standards.
A total of 539
homes, 197 businesses, a historic farmstead, a school, three parks and the
two cemeteries would be purchased and destroyed to make way for airport
resulting in the destruction of tax-revenue-generating homes and businesses
would cause local taxing districts to lose $5.6 million in revenue annually.
president of the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, and an Arlington
Heights resident, said arguments purporting to show that airport expansion
is safe do not take into account the health risks associated with additional
"The ... plan
offers no innovation and it is not sustainable environmentally, financially
and also, in light of the future shortage of cheap oil. There are better
plans out there but they do not put the money in the right people's
pocket," Saporito wrote in an e-mailed statement.
-- residents, taxpayers, the traveling public -- need to be protected and
this environmental procedure is part of the protection process," he
Saporito, who is
investigating possible connections between the airport and environmental
illnesses and diseases, called upon local representatives to review the
popular opinion will turn against the project when its costs are weighed
against its benefits. He said Chicago's recent record of scandals involving
contractors raises doubts about the city's ability to broker the expansion
"They want to
do the biggest public works project in the history of mankind and you see
the kind of corruption going on in the city with these contracts. Can you
even imagine the kind of stuff we're going to see happen at O'Hare if
expansion truly does take place?" he said.
Drew said the
project contracts will be awarded in an open and transparent public process.
who pick up bid packets, bidders and the responses to bids will all be
available on-line," he said. "People will be able to see the bid
requirements, who expresses interest and those persons' actual
Johnson also said
he was astounded at the reduction of projected flights. In 2001 when the
project was first laid out, officials had said expansion would allow for
700,000 additional flights per year. But the FAA's new estimates count
additional flights at about 200,000 per year when the project is complete.
Molinaro said the
estimate represents a "reasonable" number of flights, not the
maximum, that the airport could expect in 15 years.
Molinaro also said the FAA's report has no impact on the proposal for a
south suburban airport at Peotone.
sees Peotone as a viable option to O'Hare expansion, the report's authors
don't see it the same way.
The report says
Peotone is still part of the equation, but that "the (FAA) concluded
that each of these alternatives by themselves would not satisfy the purpose
and need and therefore each was not feasible."
Other options that
were considered include the expansion of airports in Rockford, Gary and
Milwaukee, but the
report states that additional flights at these locales without O'Hare
expansion is not enough to relieve air congestion in the region.
Molinaro said the
two projects are being analyzed, but that they are in different stages and
on different tracks
working on (Peotone) with a separate team. We're still in need of more
documentation on that project in regards to the environmental
analysis," Molinaro said.
that an FAA review of the Peotone project will turn expansion proponents
against the O'Hare Modernization Project.
project combined with all the issues that we have been hitting on for years
will be the death knell for O'Hare expansion," he said.