AReCO in the News

Date: 6/17/2008 12:13 AM

Copyright 2008, THE DAILY HERALD

By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff

O'Hare project could cost anywhere from $15 billion to $67 billion

The numbers range from $15 billion to $20 billion and higher.

Not a comfortable difference if you're a frequent flier who pays ticket fees or an airline facing soaring fuel prices.

But that's the difference between estimates given by the city of Chicago for its 20-year O'Hare Master Plan and airport expansion foes.

The city breaks down its roughly $15 billion master plan into three components.

The O'Hare Modernization Program calls for building six parallel runways and a western terminal. Originally projected at $6.6 billion, it's now hovering above $8 billion. Early $2.9 billion costs for the first phase of the OMP now sit at $3.3 billion.

The World Gateway Program would add two new terminals plus other expansion for $3.2 billion.

Capital improvement projects estimated at $3.6 billion.

But critics of O'Hare expansion scoff that the $15 billion isn't close to the ultimate cost.

Leaders representing Bensenville and Elk Grove Village, two towns fighting the city's proposal, argue the more accurate figure is in excess of $20 billion for the master plan. The city isn't considering the uncertain finances of the airline industry, either, they charge.

Another airport watchdog, the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare contends the real number is from $40 billion to $67 billion and that the city isn't adding all the construction costs and debt payments.

The first phase of the OMP building two new runways, an air traffic control tower and extending one runway is funded. Sources are federal grants, passenger ticket charges and bonds backed by major carriers such as United and American Airlines that contribute to O'Hare through gate and landing fees.

The city is set to complete a new north runway and extension this fall.